Brian Stephens, Harare
A delegation of 13 unionists from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was deported from Zimbabwe under armed escort on October 26.
The delegation was investigating the situation in the lead up to national elections next March. They were detained as they met with representatives from the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions.
The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, grew out of the trade union movement and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, is a formed general secretary of the ZCTU.
The government, claimed the delegation was comprised of "dubious individuals" and that they were working for imperialist interests.
The delegation was also planning to meet, against the wishes of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), with the Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe, the National Constitutional Assembly, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches.
COSATU stated that its visit would help to find a solution to Zimbabwe's political, economic and labour problems. More than 2 million Zimbabweans have migrated, often illegally, to South Africa and neighbouring countries.
The country is in the grip of a deep political and economic crisis. Inflation is running at 400% and teachers and postal workers are on a national strike.
The South African government, which has close relations with COSATU, but which supports "quiet diplomacy" to resolve the impasse in Zimbabwe, didn't condemn the deportation
The Zimbabwean government claimed to be unaware of a court order that was meant to stay the deportation.
From Green Left Weekly, November 3, 2004.
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