By Professor Matodzi
Harare, August 12, 2015 – Zimbabwean police on Wednesday besieged and cordoned off the offices of the country’s largest labour federation, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) as tension ran high in the troubled southern African country where thousands of workers are losing jobs almost on a daily basis.
Heavily armed anti-riot police besieged the ZCTU offices in central Harare as the law enforcements agents panicked and attempted to stop the labour body from staging job protests against President Robert Mugabe’s administration and corporate enterprises that they blame for the ongoing massive job losses.
On Saturday, the Zimbabwe Republic Police suppressed the ZCTU led protests against the current wave of job losses and abducted and later on dumped the union’s president George Nkiwane, secretary-general Japhet Moyo and some journalists covering the demonstration.
On Wednesday, armed police officers maintained an intimidating presence at the ZCTU offices located at Gorlon House along Jason Moyo Avenue in central Harare, parking a truckload of agents, with some monitoring the entrance to the offices.
Most ZCTU staff members and other people whose offices are housed at the same building failed to access their workplaces as police maintained a heavy presence.
The labour body was reportedly exploring legal options to interdict the police from occupying the building and from barring the ZCTU officials to access their offices.
The countrywide protests organised by the ZCTU are meant to voice the labour union’s concern on the on-going job loses following the Supreme Court judgment that gave employers the right to terminate employment contracts on notice. The ruling has prompted most private companies to dismiss thousands of employees while parastatals and government enterprises among them the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Zimpapers, 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 made it a past-time over the years to clamp down on ZCTU led protests by enlisting the services of armed police officers to thwart demonstrations which it claims are an attempt by the labour union and its political ally, the Movement for Democratic Change led by former union leader Morgan Tsvangirai to topple it from power hiding behind worker grievances.
With unemployment estimated at 80 percent, 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 by Mugabe’s administration.
But Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980, denies mismanaging the southern African country and instead accuses western governments of inflicting economic harm on the former British colony through the imposition of travel restrictions on himself and his close allies.