Christians protest at attacks on Zimbabwe trade unionists

By Ecumenical News International
7 Mar 2010

The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) and its Zimbabwe Advocacy Office say they are shocked at recent attacks on trade union leaders by police and security forces in Zimbabwe during a period when the southern African country is trying to reconcile bitter divides - writes Peter Kenny.

In a statement sent to Ecumenical News International recently, the General Secretary of the student federation, the Rev Michael Wallace, and the coordinator of the Zimbabwe office in Geneva, Marlon Zakeyo, said that three days earlier, police raided and ransacked offices of the General Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union of Zimbabwe in Harare.

"These senseless attacks, together with the recent upsurge in general violence in the country, indicate clearly that Zimbabwe's political crisis remains unresolved and that Zimbabwe's Inclusive Government needs to do much more to deliver change," the statement said.

The statement noted that the police forced the Secretary General of the agricultural workers' union, Gertrude Hambira, to flee her home to South Africa, leaving her family behind.

The attacks on the union leaders came as the government of Zimbabwe and some news agencies reported that South African President Jacob Zuma during a visit to Britain had called for an end to travel restrictions and economic sanctions targeting members of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF Party.

The WSCF and the Zimbabwe Advocacy Office said they also received "troubling reports of the arrest of staff of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, who were conducting a civic education workshop in the eastern city of Mutare".

They students' grouping and the Zimbabwe office added in the statement: "We urge the Inclusive Government in Zimbabwe to protect the rights of workers and students to organise freely and uphold its commitment to restoring human rights and the rule of law in the country.

"A year after the formation of the Inclusive Government the international community continues to look to the leadership in Zimbabwe to demonstrate its commitment to genuine, irreversible reforms.

"We ask the ongoing 13th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Labour Organisation [in Geneva] to take note and act on these attacks," said the statement.

They also urged students and workers worldwide to support their stand "in the face of injustice and repression".

On 8 February a group known as the Ecumenical Zimbabwe Network, along with a number of Evangelical, Protestant and Roman Catholic church organisations connected with Zimbabwe, had issued a statement that included a call to continue sanctions that target individuals in the country.

They said: "Concerning 'targeted sanctions and international re-engagement', we held that restrictive measures aimed at individual politicians should be allowed to take their full course should there be no tangible and irreversible democratic reforms.

"In fact, sanctions should not be tied down to the implementation of the Global Political Agreement only but to broader respect for human rights. The onus is on the Government of Zimbabwe to demonstrate its commitment to genuine reforms by respecting its obligations under international and regional treaties."

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

[Ekk/3]

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