COSATU Solidarity Statement against the clampdown on legitimate protests and attempts to silence the growing frustration in Zimbabwe
17 February 2019
The Congress of South African Trade Unions [COSATU] is deeply disturbed and concerned by the blatant disregard for human rights in Zimbabwe, and the level of violence ordinary people are exposed to. This systemic abuse of power and repression against leaders and members of the trade union movement led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions [ZCTU] as well as the opposition should be condemned.
We condemn the forceful nature in which the government of Zimbabwe is responding, following legitimate and legal protests organised by the ZCTU and its affiliates. We have watched with dismay as the legalised repression unfolds in Zimbabwe.
These protests were organised based on legitimate demands about salaries, fuel price hikes, deteriorating economic situation, living conditions and general affordability of essentials for ordinary Zimbabweans. The Government of Zimbabwe was given the demands with the ultimatum for them to do away with the fuel hike in particular.
We applaud our sister federation the ZCTU in the unwavering determination to represent the working class and poor even in such conditions. The Federation took care to avoid violence by calling for a stay-away protest to avoid violent clashes but, instead of a formal response to their demands the government unleashed the army and the police on people.
In an attempt to cover up the awful and unlawful suppression of human rights by the Zimbabwean Government ,particularly unleashed on the people mainly residing in townships, the Zimbabwean government suspended the Internet on the 15th January 2019 around 7 am; which was confirmed by Twitter and that the shutdown was as a directive from Zimbabwean Government.
This act clearly was meant to silence the growing frustrated voices and limit communication on the subsequent clampdown today against leaders, workers, and members of the community who are involved in the stay-away since Monday, 14th February 2019.
It is reported that the police and the army have been raiding homes dragging everyone outside, forcing them to go to work and beating them up and also arresting others. It is said no one is spared this humiliation, people as old as 60years old, women included are being dragged from their homes and beaten while others are taken and their whereabouts unknown.
A number of activists have been taken and these include Pastor Evan Mawarira known for the #thisflag campaign and the Organising Secretary of the MDC Alliance, Amos Chibaya one taken by police and the other by soldiers. We call for their immediate release.
It is deplorable that live ammunition has been used on citizens, with more than 27 cases of multiple gunshot wounds and fatalities reported, as well as more than 1600 people reportedly injured and seeking medical care from Doctors without Borders.
Reports from the ground are that the numbers of those who have died since this morning have reached double digits and may increase as people regain the ability to communicate through the internet again.
We call on SADC to stop treating the issue of Zimbabwe lightly, there needs to be a stronger and more sustainable response to normalise the situation in that country, a solution that will include improving the lives of the citizens of that country. Change needs to come urgently.
The Zimbabwe Diaspora has sanctioned a march to the Zimbabwean Embassy on the 26th January 2019 in Pretoria in Solidarity with ZCTU and we call on all to join the march in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum will convene a meeting on 17th January 2019 to develop a formal response to the situation currently unfolding in Zimbabwe and COSATU will be part of this.
COSATU remains resolute as a strong partner of the ZCTU in its struggle for human and trade union rights, social justice, economic and political freedom.
Issued by Zanele Matebula, Deputy International Secretary, COSATU, 17 January 2019