By Alois Vinga
THE United States’ largest and most influential trade union, the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO), has petitioned President Emmerson Mnangagwa over the continued detention of Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president Obert Masaraure.
Masaraure, was arrested at Harare Central police station on 14 June, having gone there as part of conditions set for his bail in a case of treason and participating in an unlawful teachers’ protest.
He was charged with murder, and has remained in police custody since then.
The arrest came a few days after the ARTUZ leader had received an award in Dublin for his contribution in the human rights sector and a few days before planned protests.
In a letter seen by NewZimbabwe.com dated June 22, 2022 written by AFL-CIO international director, Catherine Feingold accused Harare of employing “judicial harassment” against human rights defenders.
“On behalf of the 12,5 million members of the AFL-CIO, the largest union federation in the United States, I write to express our deep concern on the continued violation of worker and human rights in your country, including the detention of Obert Masaraure, the national president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ),” the letter said.
The US labour organ questioned the head of state on the rationale behind resurrecting a case which took place way back in June 2016 when a youth activist Roy Issa fell from the 7th floor of a hotel and lost his life.
The organ argued that initial investigations into the incident left out Masaraure from the interrogations as he was not present at the hotel at the time of the unfortunate event and underscored that even a Court Inquest in 2016 at Harare Magistrate Court ruled out any form of foul play.
“The recent incident is part of a pattern of violations against ARTUZ and its members which started in December 2018 and have continued to escalate.
“These incidents come in a context of harassment and detentions committed against human rights defenders in Zimbabwe in reprisal for their work on the right to education in rural areas, labor and other civil rights,” the AFC-CIO leader said.
The US labour group expressed deep concerns about the arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and judicial harassment of ARTUZ human rights defenders and believes that these measures are solely motivated by their legitimate activities in defence of human rights.
“The AFL-CIO condemns the ongoing human rights violations by security agents and recognises them as part of an effort to clamp down on freedoms, specifically against human rights defenders fighting for the right to education in rural areas, labor and other civil rights in Zimbabwe,” the letter says in part.
The labour group urged Mnangagwa to expedite the dropping of all charges against Masaraure, as it is believed that they are solely motivated by his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights.
They also called for his immediate and unconditional release.
“Authorities must cease targeting all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, and guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment,” she added.