By UK Bureau
SOUTH Africa’s powerful trade union body has demanded that any assistance Pretoria gives to its stricken northern neighbour must be conditional.
“The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has noted the comments by the South African government on giving assistance to our neighbouring country Zimbabwe,” the labour body said in a statement Thursday.
“The federation is not opposed to any attempts to help our neighbouring country and its citizens in their hour of need, but we demand that any assistance be conditional.”
The federation added; “South African … taxpayers and workers will not agree to any propping up of any dictatorship in Zimbabwe.”
COSATU was among the leading international voices condemning the Harare government’s use of deadly force against protestors last week.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is desperately short of money, particularly foreign currency which is needed for key imports such as fuel and medicines.
A long-standing economic crisis has lately been worsened by austerity measures imposed by finance minister Prof Mhtuli Ncube and long-suffering Zimbabweans have lost patience.
12 people died last week after government used lethal force to control violent protests after Mnangagwa more than doubled fuel prices.
Concerned about the unfolding crisis, the Pretoria government has now said it is prepared to help after rejecting an initial appeal by Harare for a billion-dollar bailout.
The change of heart is not only driven by neighbour charity.
South Africa knows that if the situation continues to worsen Zimbabweans will again stream across the two countries’ shared border to escape the hardships.
Said international relations minister Lindiwe Sisulu; “Instability creates displacement of people, conflict, and illegal migration.
“We will help Zimbabwe, as a neighbour we need to do that. They are a sister country and we have very close relations with them, and we would like to see an end to their problems.
“We are considering anything we can afford.”
COSATU was however, adamant that any assistance Pretoria offers must not be free of charge.
Mnangagwa’s government must be forced to free political prisoners arrested last week, stop use of lethal force and allow Zimbabweans to freely express themselves without fear of intimidation and arrests.
“The protests in Zimbabwe are legitimate and legal and this ongoing repression is unwarranted,” said COSATU in its statement.
“Workers have every right to protests against any government that is corrupt and mismanages the economy.
“The low salaries, fuel price hikes, deteriorating economic situation, living conditions ordinary Zimbabweans is caused by a reckless and clueless Zimbabwean.”
The labour federation added; “We applaud our sister federation the ZCTU in its unwavering determination to represent the working class and poor under terrible conditions.
“We also 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.”