Shrinking Space: worrying crackdown on opposition and unions’ leaders in Zimbabwe

A renewed wave of repression of freedom of association and peaceful assembly is hitting Zimbabwean human rights defenders, opposition supporters, civil society and trade union activists. 

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), reported that the situation is worsening day by day. The most recent examples are: 

  1. Repression of workers protests: earlier in July, the nurses protested against the poor wages and the lack of adequate personal protective equipment. Thirteen leaders were arrested, judicially persecuted and requested to pay a fine.  
  2. Harassment of Trade Union Leaders: Peter Mutasa, President of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) – organisation affiliated to the ITUC and whose Secretary General Japhet Moyo is a SOLIDAR Silver Rose Awardee – as well as the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union (ARTUZ) official, Obert Masaraure, had their homes broken into by armed people who identified themselves as security officers, in the middle of the night in an attempt to abduct. Luckily, they could not be located.   
  3. Persecution of Trade Union leaders: A press conference convened July 27th by the ruling  party (the Zimbabwe African Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU- PF), where its Acting Secretary labelled ZCTU as a terrorist organisation. On the same day, the Zimbabwe Republic Police published a list of wanted persons including ZCTU’s President Peter Mutasa. The list was published on ZBC news.

In response to this, the ITUC has sent a letter to the authorities vividly condemning the labelling of the ZTCU as a terrorist organisation. 

SOLIDAR joins ITUC’s condemnation and demands the EU to publicly express support to ZCTU recognising it as a legitimate social party, contributing to build a better Zimbabwe and achieve decent work for all.  

This would be in line with the EU commitments to support and protect human rights defenders (HRD), contained, among others, in the EU Guidelines on HRDs , the new Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy and the European Commission Communication’s “The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe’s engagement with Civil Society in external relations”.  

In time of COVID 19, where the pandemic is cynically being used to repress civic space, the EU needs to stand up firmly to protect the respect of freedom of association!

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