By Dylan Murambgi
Harare, May 02, 2016 – ZIMBABWE Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary general Japhet Moyo was left fuming on Sunday after a heavy police deployment at the leading labour body’s May Day commemorative event at Gwanzura stadium allegedly resulted in a low turnout.
Moyo said, as ZCTU, they had never invited the police to attend the annual event and was surprised when they woke up to water cannons and truck loads of heavily armed anti-riot police at the venue and all over Highfield suburb.
“We strongly believe it was a ploy to intimidate the people and discourage them from attending the commemorations,” Moyo said in an interview during the May Day rally.
“They knew people would think that they might be sprayed with the painful water from the water cannons they were patrolling the area around the venue.”
The ZCTU chief said the labour based group had never seen such a heavy police presence at any of its May Day celebrations in many years.
He said the move by the police was tantamount to interfering with the activities of trade unions in the country, which he said was unconstitutional.
“Zimbabwean police are known for beating up and disrupting gatherings, even those which would have been given the green light by the country’s courts.
“So many people did not come because the police maintained an unnecessarily heavy presence at the venue, which is unfortunate. It is interference of the state in workers’ issues,” he said.
Moyo said the ZCTU was not surprised however by that their commemorations were snubbed by the Ministry of Labour despite sending them an invitation which they confirmed receiving.
Meanwhile, in his main address to an estimated crowd of about 1 000, ZCTU president Nkiwane said there was widespread discontent within the country’s labour force due to erratic payment of wages and in some instances non-payment.
He said considering the country’s economic outlook, this was likely to continue and causing more distress among the few Zimbabweans who remain in formal employment.
Nkiwane said current El Nino induced drought was also worsening the plight of workers.
The ZCTU event was also attended by representatives of some opposition political parties among them the MDC-T, Welshman Ncube’s MDC, Zapu and ZimFirst.
Top politicians who graced the event included former Labour minister Paurina Mpariwa, MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora and MPs Nelson Chamisa and Dorcas Sibanda.
MDC-T leader and former ZCTU secretary general Morgan Tsvangirai, who was also invited to the commemorations, was conspicuous by his absence.
Mwonzora, on his part, slammed the police deployment at the workers rally saying it was shocking that the government did not want dissenting voices to express themselves while it allowed Zanu PF supporters to gather as and when they wanted.
“The government wants to demonstrate through Zanu PF and they are planning for a million man march, this is a very unrighteous demonstration because it is a government demonstrating against itself. The Constitution is very clear that the people of Zimbabwe have the right to demonstrate,” he said
He scoffed at threats by national police spokesperson, Charity Charamba to ban any further demonstrations by the MDC-T who came out saying the demonstration held by the main opposition last month had turned violent.
On Sunday, police were said to have been turning away anyone who tried to attend the ZCTU event wearing an MDC-T t-shirt.