Mugabe refused to meet ILO commission


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President Robert Mugabe and attorney-general Johannes Tomana refused to meet a three-member International Labour Organisation Commission that had come to the country to investigate labour rights violations.

The commission, however, met Information Minister Webster Shamu and Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said it had given the commission information on the violations since 2002.

The three-member Commission visited Zimbabwe in April and August 2009 to investigate the claims.

The delegates were reportedly followed by Central Intelligence Organisation officers during both visits but were generally free to investigate.

The investigation aimed to look at whether the government had violated ILO conventions 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise) and 98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining).

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 09HARARE788, ZIM POLICE SHOOT STRIKING LABOR LEADERS

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09HARARE788

2009-10-07 14:35

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO4425

RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0788/01 2801435

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

R 071435Z OCT 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4978

RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 2386

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 3065

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 3177

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1606

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2440

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2809

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 3225

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5672

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2359

RUZEHAA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000788

 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. WALCH

DRL FOR N. WILETT

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR M. GAVIN

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L. DOBBINS AND E. LOKEN

STATE PASS TO DOL FOR S. HALEY

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ELAB EMIN PHUM PGOV ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: ZIM POLICE SHOOT STRIKING LABOR LEADERS

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (U) In a recent meeting, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)

Secretary General Wellington Chibebe described in detail the recent

shooting of three labor leaders at a government-owned asbestos mine

in central Zimbabwe. The workers were shot after a three-week

strike had ground production at the mine to a halt; management

allegedly called in police and Central Intelligence Organization

(CIO) to coerce the workers back to the job. Since the shooting,

labor leaders have been fired and continue to face harassment.

Chibebe also outlined the status of the current International Labor

Organization (ILO) Commission of Inquiry into labor abuses in

Zimbabwe. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (U) On October 2, we met with the Secretary General of the

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Wellington Chibebe, along

with the ZCTU lawyer and information officer. Chibebe discussed a

recent violent attack on labor leaders at the Shabanie asbestos mine

and the outcome of an ILO Commission of Inquiry visit. (NOTE: ZCTU’s

controversial position on the constitution-making process will be

reported septel. END NOTE.)

 

———————————

Shabanie Mine: Police Shoot

and Arrest Striking Labor Leaders

———————————

 

3. (SBU) Chibebe detailed the ongoing and violent labor dispute at

the government-owned Shabanie asbestos mine in central Zimbabwe. On

September 25, six police officers fired at a crowd and shot three

members of the mine’s labor committee during a peaceful sit-in at

the mine; the shooting came during a protracted and tense strike.

The roughly 2,280 mine workers went on strike on August 31 because

they had only been receiving US$20-US$40 per month since the

beginning of 2009, although their pay slips showed they should be

paid US$150. Management at the mine announced all outstanding wages

and allowances would be paid on August 31, but failed to do so,

prompting the strike. According to the workers, the company

management invited intelligence officers from the CIO to harass

workers. Around the third week of the strike, CIO agents briefly

abducted some of the labor leaders and threatened them to attempt to

get them to go back to work.

 

4. (SBU) The workers refused to go back to work and gathered near

the company on September 25 while waiting to meet with the mine

directors. The crowd numbered over 1,000 and included some of the

workers’ spouses. According to ZCTU, management did not attend the

meeting and instead sent six riot police armed with AK-47s and

teargas. When one of the leaders, Alois Zhou, asked where the

management leaders were, the police beat him with a gun and shot him

on the leg and hand. Police also threw teargas canisters towards

Qon the leg and hand. Police also threw teargas canisters towards

the sitting workers. Two other leaders, Taurai Zhou and Simbarashe

Chinhadada, were also shot in the leg as they ran away from police.

(NOTE: The three men are all MDC councilors as well as members of

the mine’s labor committee. END NOTE.) Police also beat one labor

leader’s wife. She received medical treatment and is now in hiding

from the CIO, which is threatening her because they believe she has

photos of the incident on her cell phone.

 

5. (SBU) After the shooting, the three men initially went to a

nearby public hospital. They were afraid to go to the mine’s

hospital because the doctor there (Dr. Mataga) is a member of the

 

HARARE 00000788 002 OF 003

 

 

ZANU-PF central committee. When a lawyer from Zimbabwe Lawyers for

Human Rights (ZLHR), Tichaona Chivasa, attempted to visit the three

in the hospital, police denied him access, arrested him, and charged

him with “obstruction of justice.” Another lawyer went to the

police station several hours later to rescue him, and charges were

dropped. The three shooting victims have since been moved to a

Harare hospital; one underwent surgery for his injuries.

 

6. (U) Immediately after the sit-in, more than 50 workers were

arrested and detained. Nine spent the weekend in jail and, together

with the three shooting victims, were charged with public violence.

All were released on September 28 on US$10 bail.

 

 

7. (U) On September 29, police and armed CIO officers visited other

workers at their homes and threatened that they must return to work

or face eviction. The same day, armed CIO visited ZCTU’s Zvishavane

District Secretary at his home and demanded to know what ZCTU

planned to do in response to the mine strike. The CIO warned him

not to work with the mine workers. Because the majority of mine

employees live in mine-owned housing and feared further violence,

roughly 75 percent of workers returned to work on September 30.

They have not received any of their back pay and expect to be paid

US$20-US$40 again this month.

 

8. (U) According to ZCTU, eight labor leaders employed at the mine

— including the three shooting victims — were dismissed on

September 30. Their lawyer was not told about the hearing. The

workers were charged with being absent from work without leave,

defying the memo to return to work, and illegal work stoppage. The

eight who were dismissed are known for their MDC activism. Workers

who belong to ZANU-PF were reinstated. In a long memo to Minister

of Labor Paurina Mupariwa (MDC-T), ZCTU asks what the difference is

between “the inclusive government and the colonial masters…” and

declares that the incident at Shabanie “proves that slavery is back

in Zimbabwe.”

 

9. (U) On Friday October 2, co-Minister of Home Affairs Giles

Mutsekwa (MDC-T) decried the incident and said that he was

disappointed that senior officials at the mine had tried to cover up

for the police. Mutsekwa said, “We have repeatedly told the police

that they should always refrain from using firearms against

defenseless people.” He also declared that the government was going

to make the incident a “cabinet issue.” ZCTU has called for

Mutsekwa and co-Minister Kembo Mohadi (ZANU-PF) to resign and for an

official inquiry into the shootings.

 

—————————

Shabanie: ZANU-PF Cash Cow?

—————————

 

 

10. (SBU) The mine has reportedly fallen into disrepair since the

Q10. (SBU) The mine has reportedly fallen into disrepair since the

Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) took it over in 2004. After

expropriating Shabanie and Mashava Mines (the two largest asbestos

mines in Zimbabwe) from SMM Holdings, the government appointed

Arafas Gwaradzimba as administrator. According to Chibebe,

Gwaradzimba is a “ZANU-PF strongman” closely aligned to Defense

Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who grew up nearby. SMM was once one

of Zimbabwe’s largest single employers with close to 6,000 employees

and export earnings accounting for a significant proportion of the

country’s export revenues. The former owner, Mutemwa Mawere, a

crusader of the black economic empowerment mantra, fell out with

Mugabe and was charged with illegally externalizing foreign currency

 

HARARE 00000788 003 OF 003

 

 

in 2004. Using the charges as justification, the government took

over SMM. Mawere fled to South Africa and has been fighting the

take-over in court ever since.

 

11. (U) Some observers believe ZANU-PF benefits from the cash flow

the Shabanie mine generates, even though the company has not

prospered under GOZ management. The Financial Times has reported

that the charges against Mawere had kept the mine from securing

loans it needs to replace ageing equipment. In a report to Legal

Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa in May, Gwaradzimba said the

situation at the two mines had deteriorated with equipment in urgent

need of replacement: “as it stands right now, it is extremely

dangerous to carry out mining activities because of the sorry and

sad state of the mines’ plant and equipment.”

 

————————————–

ILO Report on Labor Abuses Forthcoming

————————————–

 

12. (SBU) Turning to the ILO’s ongoing, broad investigation into

labor rights violations in Zimbabwe, Chibebe explained that the

ILO’s Commission of Inquiry should release its preliminary report to

the ILO governing board by the end of October. (NOTE: The

Commission of Inquiry is the ILO’s highest level investigation, and

the Zimbabwe investigation is only the twelfth that the ILO has ever

undertaken. END NOTE.) The Commission began work in February 2009

after ZCTU complained to the international body that the government

had violated international labor standards. ZCTU has presented the

Commission with information on violations since 2002. The recent

incident at Shabanie Mine will be discussed at an ILO meeting in

March. Chibebe expects that the governing board will discuss

Zimbabwe at its next meeting in November.

 

13. (SBU) The three-member Commission visited Zimbabwe in April and

August to investigate the claims. Although they requested to meet

with President Mugabe and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, both

refused. The delegation did meet with the ZANU-PF Ministers of

Information (Webster Shamu) and Foreign Affairs (Simbarashe

Mumbengegwi). The delegates were followed by CIO during both visits

but were generally free to investigate. The investigation aims to

look at whether the government has violated ILO conventions 87

(Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize) and

98 (Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining).

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

14. (SBU) The shooting at Shabanie is further proof that rule of law

and respect for labor rights have not yet returned to Zimbabwe. The

entire series of events from the mine’s refusal to pay employees

their full wage to the lawyer’s incarceration when attempting to

visit the victims in the hospital reads like a laundry list of human

Qvisit the victims in the hospital reads like a laundry list of human

rights violations – none of which have been adequately addressed by

the government. While the ILO Commission of Inquiry will likely

produce a damning report documenting labor violations going back to

2002, recent events at Shabanie demonstrate that even international

attention probably will not change the situation for workers on the

ground absent fundamental change in Zimbabwe’s governing process.

END COMMENT.

 

PETTERSON

 

(18 VIEWS)

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The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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