Global labour group confronts ED over ZCTU shootings by army

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By Chris Mahove

THE International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR) has written to President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa expressing concern over the shooting of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)’s headquarters by the army beginning of this month.

Soldiers deployed to quell post-electoral violence fired shots at the ZCTU’s Gorlon House building in central Harare, narrowly missing one worker while another sustained slight injuries from broken glass of windows damaged by bullets.

On the streets, six civilians were shot dead with over a dozen injured.

However, it was not clear if bullets were deliberately directed at the opposition aligned labour group or they were just stray shots.

In a letter addressed to Mnangagwa, ICTUR Director Daniel Blackburn said the shooting incident at the country’s largest trade union organisation was a violation of labour and human rights.

“The actions of the ZNA are highly alarming and raise very serious concerns about the administration’s commitment to ensuring respect for labour and human rights,” Blackburn said.

“ICTUR wishes to remind the Government that the principles of freedom of association are enshrined in the International Labour Organisation Conventions 87 and 98, which Zimbabwe has ratified.”

He added, “In particular the Committee has expressly stated that ‘attacks against trade unionists and trade union premises and property constitute serious interference with trade union rights’, and that ‘criminal activities of this nature create a climate of fear which is extremely prejudicial to the exercise of trade union activities’.”

Blackburn urged the Zanu PF led government to “carry out immediate investigation to determine who was responsible and punish the guilty parties”.

He also called for the arraignment of the culprits before an independent judicial authority’ in accordance with ILO Digest, paragraphs. 46, 59, 184 and 191.

“ICTUR calls on the government to initiate a prompt and independent investigation into this attack, to hold those responsible to account, and to provide adequate remedy to the victims.

“ICTUR further urges the government to undertake all necessary measures to ensure that it complies with Zimbabwe’s obligations under international law, and to protect the fundamental freedoms of workers to join and form unions and take action in defence of their interests,” he said.

Blackburn said his organisation would also report the shooting incident in the journal of International Union Rights, established in 1993, and which enjoys a readership in more than 100 countries.

Following the widely condemned killing of civilians, both government and the army have failed to take responsibility for the catastrophe.

In a keynote address during the Defence Forces Day celebrations on Tuesday, President-elect Mnangagwa avoided mention of the army in the killings but reserved blame on the MDC Alliance for allegedly causing the skirmishes that led to the tragedy.