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Labour issues pushed to the backburner at ZCTU Congress

Politics dominated the elections of the new executive of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in 2001 while purely labour issues were pushed to the backburner.

This was the view of the regional representative of the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity in Harare Gebre Gebremariam after the congress which saw pro-Movement for Democratic Change candidates sweep all the top posts in the labour movement.

He said traditional labour issues and other economic matters such as death and pension benefits, the status of the aids levy, retrenchments, privatisation of parastatals and even the increase of union dues to maintain the solvency of the ZCTU were only discussed in a cursory manner.

The congress was seen as a clear fight between MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe and the results were viewed as a defeat for Mugabe.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 01HARARE862, ZIMBABWE’S AFL-CIO SOLIDARITY CENTER HEAD

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

01HARARE862

2001-02-28 09:58

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

280958Z Feb 01

 

 

CONFIDENTIAL     PTQ9778

 

PAGE 01       HARARE 00862 01 OF 02 281850Z

ACTION DRL-02

 

INFO LOG-00   AF-00   AID-00   CIAE-00 DODE-00 SRPP-00 EB-00

EUR-00   H-01     TEDE-00 INR-00   IO-00   LAB-01   L-00

NSAE-00 NSCE-00 OIC-02   PM-00   PRS-00  P-00     SP-00

SS-00   STR-00   TRSE-00 USIE-00 PMB-00   PRM-01   G-00

SAS-00     /007W

——————CBB75C 281850Z /45

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8305

INFO NSC WASHDC

DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

AMEMBASSY NAIROBI

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000862

 

SIPDIS

 

DRL/IL FOR KBRYANT

NSC FOR JFRAZERNSCE-$,,^

ILAB FOR RSHEPHARD

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

PARIS FOR BWILLIAMS

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

PASS USAID FOR AFR/SD – DWELLER, AFR/SA – CPALMA,

NNEWMAN, AA/AFR – VDICKSON-HORTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL 02/28/11

TAGS: ELAB PGOV PHUM PINR ZI

SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE’S AFL-CIO SOLIDARITY CENTER HEAD

CLAIMS ZCTU CONGRESS WAS A VICTORY FOR THE MDC

 

REFS: A. HARARE 859, B. HARARE 846

 

CLASSIFIED BY CHARGE D’ AFFAIRES EARL M. IRVING FOR

REASONS 1.5 D.

 

1. (C) ON FEBRUARY 27, LABOFF MET WITH GEBRE

GEBREMARIAM, THE AMCIT REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE

AFL-CIO FUNDED AMERICAN CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL LABOR

SOLIDARITY IN HARARE, TO DISCUSS THE JUST-ENDED ZIMBABWE

CONGRESS OF TRADE UNIONS’ (ZCTU) FIVE-YEAR CONGRESS.

GEBREMARIAM INDICATED THAT THE ELECTION RESULTS AT THE

CONGRESS HAD PRODUCED A COMPLETE VICTORY BY THE MOVEMENT

FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE (MDC) IN MAINTAINING CONTROL OF

THE LABOR FEDERATION. HE SAID THAT THE POLITICS

SURROUNDING THE ZCTU EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE ELECTIONS

DOMINATED THE CONGRESS, AND THAT TRADITIONAL LABOR

ISSUES WERE CLEARLY SECONDARY. ACCORDING TO

GEBREMARIAM, IT WAS OBVIOUS THAT THE MDC COMMANDED

OVERWHELMING SUPPORT AMONG THE UNION DELEGATES WHO

ATTENDED THE CONGRESS. IN HIS OPINION, AT LEAST 95

PERCENT OF THE DELEGATES WERE VOCAL MDC SUPPORTERS, AND

THIS FIGURE IS REPRESENTATIVE OF MDC SUPPORT BY UNION

MEMBERS AT THE GRASSROOTS LEVELS. HE EXPLAINED THAT

THIS SUPPORT IS NOT OPEN-ENDED AND WILL REQUIRE MDC

SUPPORT OF PRO-WORKER POLICIES, HOWEVER, ITS FIRM

FOUNDATION IS THE WIDESPREAD SENSE OF BETRAYAL AND

DISENCHANTMENT SHARED BY THE VAST MAJORITY OF UNION

MEMBERS TOWARDS PRESIDENT MUGABE AND ZANU-PF.

CONFIDENTIAL

 

PAGE 03       HARARE 00862 01 OF 02 281850Z

 

2. (C) THE WIDESPREAD SUPPORT FOR THE MDC WAS REFLECTED

IN THE VOTING FOR THE TOP SLOT. THE PRO-MDC CANDIDATE

WILLARD CHIBHEBHE RECEIVED 81 VOTES, ANOTHER PRO-MDC

CANDIDATE GOT 36 VOTES, WHILE THE PRO-ZANU-PF CANDIDATE

ISIDORE ZINDOGA (WHO HAD BEEN ACTING SECRETARY GENERAL

FOR THE PAST 18 MONTHS) GARNERED JUST 35 VOTES.

GEBREMARIAM BELIEVES THAT ZINDOGA RECEIVED THESE VOTES

BECAUSE OF HIS SOLID CREDENTIALS AS A UNION ORGANIZER

AND NOT BECAUSE OF HIS PRO-ZANU-PF VIEWS, WHICH HE

PLAYED DOWN. THE PRO-RULING PARTY CANDIDATE FOR

PRESIDENT OF THE ZCTU, SHANGWA CHIFAMBA, WHO DID NOT

DISTANCE HIMSELF FROM THE PARTY, RECEIVED ONLY A DISMAL

SEVEN VOTES OUT OF THE 152 CAST. THE SUPPORT FOR THE

MDC WAS ALSO SHOWN BY THE ENTHUSIASTIC WELCOME THAT MDC

PRESIDENT MORGAN TSVANGIRAI AND MDC VICE-PRESIDENT

GIBSON SIBANDA, BOTH FORMER UNION LEADERS, RECEIVED WHEN

THEY ADDRESSED THE CONGRESS.

 

3. (U) TRADITIONAL LABOR ISSUES AND OTHER ECONOMIC

MATTERS WERE RAISED AND DISCUSSED AT THE CONGRESS,

ACCORDING TO GEBREMARIAM, BUT IN ONLY A CURSORY MANNER.

THESE INCLUDED:

 

= THE LEVEL OF DEATH, PENSION AND OTHER BENEFITS

RECEIVED BY WORKERS FROM THE QUASI-GOVERNMENTAL

NATIONAL SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION (NSSA)

 

= THE STATUS OF FUNDS RAISED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF

ZIMBABWE (GOZ) THROUGH THE AIDS LEVY TAX THAT IS PAID

BY BOTH EMPLOYERS AND WORKERS

CONFIDENTIAL

 

PAGE 04       HARARE 00862 01 OF 02 281850Z

 

= RESTRUCTURING THE UNIONS IN ZIMBABWE TO CREATE FEWER,

LARGER AND MORE POWERFUL UNIONS

 

= THE PROBLEM OF RETRENCHMENT (LAYING OFF) OF WORKERS IN

THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CRISIS

 

= THE ISSUE OF PRIVATIZATION OF PARASTATAL ENTERPRISES

AND THE EFFECT ON WORKERS

 

= CREATING A SEPARATE ECONOMIC DEPARTMENT WITHIN THE

ZCTU (OR AN AUTONOMOUS RESEARCH CENTER) TO PROVIDE

INFORMATION ON THE ECONOMY

 

= INCREASING UNION DUES IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN THE

FEDERATION’S FINANCIAL SOLVENCY

 

4. (C) COMMENT: IT IS CLEAR THAT THE OUTCOME OF THE ZCTU

CONGRESS WAS A DEFEAT FOR PRESIDENT MUGABE AND ZANU-PF

IN THEIR ATTEMPT TO GAIN CONTROL OF ONE OF THE MOST

POWERFUL FORCES IN ZIMBABWEAN CIVIL SOCIETY. THE ZCTU

AND ITS MEMBER UNIONS PROVIDE A READ

 

(9 VIEWS)

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