Zimbabwe: Union solidarity against dictatorship

According to a July 15 statement by Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) spokesperson Patrick Craven, a meeting of southern African trade union representatives that day had issued a call for unions to place industrial bans on goods destined for Zimbabwe in solidarity with the struggle for democracy.

The meeting involved COSATU, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions and the Swaziland Federation of Labour as part of preparation for an international solidarity conference with Zimbabwe and Swaziland to be held in Johannesburg on August 10-11, "to mobilise solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and Swaziland in their struggle for democracy and human rights".

Arguing that the situations in Zimbabwe and Swaziland "
pose a massive challenge to the people of Africa", the statement claims that recent developments "threaten to roll back the spreading trend towards democracy in Africa".

"It is an opportunity for the workers of Africa to lead a campaign of the people of Africa to demand the establishment of democracy and respect for human rights," Craven stated.

The statement noted that this year "is a year of elections in both countries, but in neither case does the process resemble any accepted standards of democracy". While Zimbabwe's March 29 general elections were "stolen" by the regime of President Robert Mugabe, "Swaziland remains an absolute monarchy in the premier league of human rights offenders".

"The Southern African Trade Union Co-ordinating Council (SATUCC) and individual affiliates in the region need deeper engagement to institutionalise solidarity as a permanent feature of the regional trade union movement", according to Craven, with the aim of constituting "a broad solidarity front of the working class in the region".

Craven said that, "The meeting agreed to oppose Western powers-initiated sanctions other than sanctions targeted at the leadership of the illegal government. We however support actions initiated by workers of the region, continent and the world over ...

"In this regard the meeting called on COSATU, SATUCC and the rest of the workers everywhere to refuse to handle goods destined for Zimbabwe and Swaziland for an initial period of one week, which will be extended if no progress is made in the realisation of our demands.

"We agreed to work with the rest of civil society to stage a mass protest and rally when the [Southern African Development Community] heads of states summit is convened in South Africa on 15-17 August 2008. The protest march and rally will be held on 16 August near the venue of the summit."

A July 12 statement by ZCTU on the "political stalemate" in Zimbabwe referred to previous statements that highlighted that the "Political violence in the country had reached alarming if not catastrophic proportions" and that the "Presidential election was not an election, but a declaration of war against the people of Zimbabwe by the ruling party".

The statement focused on the violence, noting among other problems that "Dozens of people were murdered due to politically motivated violence; Thousands of people were threatened with death, beaten, tortured and harassed for supporting the opposition political party; Thousands of people were displaced through political violence and thereby unable to vote; The State President made it clear that he would not accept defeat even if he lost the elections."

The statement resolved that "The 27 July 2008 elections were not free and fair and did not represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe". ZCTU argued against current proposals for a power sharing arrangement that would form a "government of national unity" between Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

It argued that such a government would be "a subversion of our National Constitution and only a Neutral Transitional Authority should be put in place with a mandate to take Zimbabwe to fresh, free and fair elections that will hopefully not be disputed by the parties".

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