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Labour leaders’ arrest slammed

Gift Phiri

INTERNATIONAL labour organisations this week castigated government’s arrest of four trade unionists last week saying the crackdown represented a renewal of reprisals against labour leaders.

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (NCTU) threatened retaliatory action against Zimbabwe and said they were “profoundly concerned” by the arrests.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general Wellington Chibebe, Southern Africa Trade Union Council (Satuc) president Lucia Matibenga, central region vice-chairman Timothy Machinda and advocacy coordinator Timothy Kondo were arrested last week for participating in a workshop to report back on social policies adopted at the June conference of the International Labour Organisation. The four were detained for three days and charged with violating the Public Order and Security Act (Posa).

In petitions addressed to President Mugabe, the two labour organisations said it was regrettable that the Zimbabwe government saw trade unionists as opponents rather than as social partners that should join hands with government in resolving the country’s deepening political and economic crisis.

“This (the arrest) represents a regrettable renewal of the repressive reprisals targeted at the ZCTU, which is even more utterly unacceptable with the assault on the leadership of the region’s umbrella labour body, Satuc,” the president of the NLC, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, said.

Chibebe yesterday also castigated government’s action. “This clearly demonstrates that we are dealing with paranoid politicians scared of their own shadows,” said Chibebe. “A self-respecting government for the people by the people would not behave this way.”

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