Allegations of financial mismanagement at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions way back in 2005 were brushed off as the work of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front trying to change the leadership of the labour movement to replace it with one sympathetic to the ruling party.
Three trade unions had called for an investigation into the labour body and called upon the president Lovemore Matombo and his deputy Lucia Matibenga to resign because they were no longer employed.
The president of the ZCTU was supposed to be employed in the trade related to his or her union. It was only the secretary general who worked full-time for the labour body.
Matombo and then secretary general Wellington Chibhebhe brushed off the allegations by the three unions saying they were acting on government orders.
The two claimed that President Robert Mugabe had given up on replacing the ZCTU with the ZANU-PF’s Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions and was instead now seeking to engineer a leadership change within ZCTU that would end the union’s opposition to government policies.
Ed: Matombo tried to form a splinter group of the ZCTU when he was finally voted out, but the High Court barred him from using the labour body’s name and purporting to represent it.
Viewing cable 05HARARE617, GOZ GOES AFTER ZCTU
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000617
AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVELLE, D. TEITELBAUM
USDOC FOR ROBERT TELCHIN, TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW,
PASS USTR FOR FLORIZELLE LISER, STATE PASS USAID FOR
MARJORIE COPSON, US MISSION GENEVA FOR JOHN CHAMBERLIN,
USDOL FOR ROBERT YOUNG
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2009
SUBJECT: GOZ GOES AFTER ZCTU
Classified By: Charge’ de’ affaires Eric T. Schultz a.i. for reason 1.5
¶1. (C) Since the March 31 Parliamentary elections, the
leaders of three unions have been pressing for a leadership
change at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).
Among other charges, the three union leaders have alleged
financial malfeasance. However, the ZCTU leadership and many
of the other union leaders see the hand of the GOZ in this
leadership challenge, which even if unsuccessful could still
result in a Labor Ministry investigation that could hamstring
ZCTU activities. End Summary.
ZCTU Leadership Under Attack
¶2. (C) Deputy General Secretary of Zimbabwe Construction and
Allied Workers Union Mazarura, Associated Mine Workers of
Zimbabwe General Secretary Midzi, and Zimbabwe Leather Shoes
& Allied Workers Union President Mugeji told EconOff on April
12 that they suspected financial malfeasance by the ZCTU
leadership and that ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo and 1st
Vice President Lucia Matibenga should resign given their lack
of employment. On April 19, the three union leaders went
public with their allegations in a notice in the
GOZ-controlled Herald. The statement demanded that the ZCTU
leadership cease to direct its affairs and that new
representation be appointed for local, regional, and
¶3. (C) In a meeting with the Ambassador on April 14, Matombo
and Chibebe claimed that the three unions were acting on
orders from the GOZ. They said President Mugabe had given up
on replacing ZCTU with ZANU-PF,s phantom labor body, the
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU). Instead, Mugabe
now sought to engineer a leadership change within ZCTU that
would end the union,s opposition to government policies.
Matombo said Mugabe was disappointed that ZANU-PF had not
fared better in urban constituencies in the March 31
parliamentary elections and blamed his party,s poor showing
on MDC,s strong backing from unionized workers. Chibebe
added that the GOZ might try to engineer a leadership change
before the May 31-June 16 International Labor Organization
(ILO) annual conference where ILO delegates were expected to
pass a resolution condemning the GOZ.
¶4. (C) In an April 19 meeting with Econoff, several union
leaders agreed with Matombo and Chibebe that the GOZ was
behind the crisis. Most of the union leaders said the
agitators, efforts would be futile without a majority of
affiliates behind them. However, Progressive Teachers Union
of Zimbabwe General Secretary Majongwe said the individuals
involved would not stop until they affected either a
leadership change or a Labor Ministry investigation, which
could amount to the same thing.
Legal Basis for Labor Ministry Investigation
¶5. (C) While the next ZCTU elections are scheduled for 2006,
a successful General Council no-confidence vote (17 of 33
affiliates) would force an early election. Moreover, The
Labor Act does provide for alternative methods to force new
elections. For example, under Section 120(1) the Labor
Minister can investigate the ZCTU based upon a &reasonable
cause8 of either misappropriation of financial assets or the
leadership acting to the detriment to the interests of the
members. Also, under Section 120(3), the Minister can
de-register and wind-up the ZCTU,s affairs or place it under
receivership until a new leadership is elected. Finally,
under Section 51, the Labor Minister can supervise labor
union elections, including the pre-election campaigning, when
in the &national interest8.
¶6. (C) While many had hoped that ZANU-PF would loosen its
grip after winning the elections, the opposite has occurred.
It should be noted that former Minister for State Security
Goche is now Minister for Public Service, Labour, and Social
Welfare– and he was put there for a reason. ZCTU was the
birthplace of the MDC and has been one of the backbones of
political opposition to ZANU-PF. For now, the ZCTU
leadership may retain enough clout to withstand a
no-confidence vote but the GOZ,s intent seems clear.
Moreover, a Labor Ministry investigation in the near term
cannot be ruled out and could also effectively neutralize