By Professor Matodzi
Harare, August 21, 2015 – Zimbabwean police have banned the country’s largest labour federation, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) from staging street protests over the massive job losses in a move which exposes the level of paranoia by state security functionaries.
The ZCTU had notified the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) that workers would on Saturday stage protests in Harare against the continuing job losses and the threat to the existence of trade unions.
But the ZRP responded by prohibiting the ZCTU from proceeding with the job lay-offs protest and offered a flimsy excuse for imposing the ban.
“We regret to advise that your intended demonstration was not sanctioned due to the fact that the reasons for the demonstration have been overtaken by events since the issue is now being dealt with in Parliament. Any inconvenience caused is sincerely regretted,” reads part of the ZRP letter written by Chief Superintendent Newbert Saunyama, the ZRP Officer Commanding Harare Central District to ZCTU Secretary-General Japhet Moyo.
The ban of the ZCTU demonstration is the second one in less than one month after the ZRP first prohibited the labour union from staging its countrywide protests against the job lay-offs on 8 August. At that time the ZRP claimed that it could not sanction the demonstration because it had no “capacity to provide security services” and that the protest would be “hijacked by other people with their own intentions.”
The ZCTU through its lawyer Sharon Hofisi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights was by last night reportedly working on filing an urgent chamber application at the High Court seeking to reverse the police ban of their protest.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that employers can terminate workers contracts on notice and without giving any reason. The ruling has prompted most companies to dismiss thousands of employees with unions estimating that more than 20 000 workers had lost their jobs in less than two weeks after the ruling was issued.
Apart from private companies, parastatals among them Air Zimbabwe, Central Mechanical and Equipment Department and the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration have also taken advantage of the Supreme Court ruling to off load workers.
President Robert Mugabe’s government has in previous years clamped down on ZCTU-led protests by enlisting the services of armed police to thwart demonstrations which it claims are an attempt by the labour union and its political ally, the Movement for Democratic Change to topple it from power hiding behind worker grievances.
Tensions have been rising in Zimbabwe as the troubled southern African country grapples with a political and economic crisis worsened by massive job losses blamed mainly on mismanagement of the economy by Mugabe’s administration.
But the 91 year-old Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980 denies mismanaging the economy and instead accuses western governments of inflicting economic harm on the southern African country through the imposition of travel sanctions on the former nationalist and his lieutenants.