THE Zimbabwean government yesterday came under withering attack from political and civic groups for deporting a 15-member strong Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) delegation that was
on a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s main labour body, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), immediately condemned the deportation of the leading South African unionists, saying such a move would further isolate Harare.
“The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions strongly condemns the insensitive and hideous decision by the government of Zimbabwe to deport a… delegation from Cosatu,” ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo said.
Matombo condemned “the inhuman manner in which our colleagues from Cosatu were treated, which shows the callousness of the government”.
It urged the government to avoid “making hasty and dangerous decisions that might in the long-run be diplomatic blunders which will further isolate the country”, he said.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the deportation of Cosatu leaders, who have threatened a serious backlash, was “deplorable”.
“This is a deplorable act but is sadly not unexpected given this government’s record of intolerance against all those who do not share its myopic outlook,” MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said.
“(Wednesday’s) regrettable episode illustrates just how repressive Zimbabwe has become. The treatment of the Cosatu officials should clear up any lingering doubts about the government’s position on political tolerance and freedom of association — two of the key principles in the Sadc protocol.”
Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi said the government’s refusal to allow members of his organisation into the country was a “barbaric and illegal act”, and boded ill for the future of the continent.
“Nepad (the New Partnership for Africa’s Development) will stand no chance if a government such as Zimbabwe’s willingly disregards its own laws in this manner,” Vavi said.
“The continent will go nowhere if its leaders can act with impunity.”The 15-strong Cosatu delegation was turned away on arrival in Harare aboard an SAA flight, thus preventing a meeting with their Zimbabwean counterparts.
The Independent understands that the ZCTU’s top leadership will instead meet with their Cosatu counterparts at Tshipise Aventura resort outside Musina in Limpopo province.
“We do not require permission from the Minister of Labour to hold discussions with our counterparts,” Vavi said, mentioning that there may be future demonstrations.
South African Labour minister Membathisi Mdladlana said he had warned Cosatu that they needed to follow the “proper procedures” in visiting Zimbabwe. But Cosatu argued that freedom of movement and association were fundamental to Sadc protocols.