State violence against Zimbabwean trade unionists

Here’s a notice I received a couple days ago from Amnesty International about a pair of fellow workers recently forced to go into hiding in Zimbabwe out of fear of violence at the hands of the police and the government intelligence agency:

Trade unionists Edward Dzeka and Joyce Muwoni have gone into hiding, after threatening phone calls from the police, who want them to come in for questioning about illegal trade union activities. Edward Dzeka was arrested by the police in September and reportedly tortured. Amnesty International believes he and Joyce Muwoni would be at grave risk of torture if arrested.

Edward Dzeka and Joyce Muwoni are local organizers for the General Agriculture and Plantations Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ) in the farming town of Chegutu. Edward Dzeka is also the district chairperson of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). They went into hiding on 3 April after receiving threatening telephone calls from people who said they were officers of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Central Intelligence Organization (CIO). The ZRP and CIO officers reportedly accused the trade unionists of organizing workers in Chegutu town and on the surrounding farms to take part in the national job stay away’ demonstration organized by the ZCTU on 3-4 April. ZRP and CIO officers called at the GAPWUZ offices on 4 April asking where the two trade unionists were, and later went to look for Edward Dzeka at his home in Chegutu.

Some of the ZRP and CIO officers allegedly threatening Edward Dzeka and Joyce Muwoni are known to the trade unionists. They are believed to be targeting trade union leaders following the national job stay away demonstration.

Edward Dzeka had been arrested with 10 other trade unionists on 13 September 2006 for organizing peaceful protests for the ZCTU. The 11 trade unionists were reportedly tortured by ZRP officers at Chegutu police station. They have been charged under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and freed on bail.

Amnesty International understands that Edward Dzeka and Joyce Muwoni are being threatened solely for exercising their rights to freedom of association and assembly by organizing a peaceful demonstration as part of their work for GAPWUZ and the ZCTU. The rights to freedom of association and assembly are guaranteed under Section 21 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution, Articles 10 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a state party.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Trade unionists in Zimbabwe operate in the face of severe repression. They cannot freely organize peaceful protests and risk being arrested and tortured by the ZRP and CIO.

On 13 March ZCTU officers Gilbert Marembo and Michael Kandukuti were assaulted by ZRP officers who had arrived at the ZCTU offices with a search warrant allowing them to seize all subversive material found on the premises. The officers were from the Law and Order Section of the Criminal Investigations department based at Harare Central police station. The assault was witnessed by lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Police later seized fliers on the planned job stay away demonstrations.

On 13 September 2006 in Harare, ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo, Secretary General Wellington Chibebe and First Vice-President Lucia Matibenga were arrested while attempting to engage in peaceful protest about deteriorating social and economic conditions in Zimbabwe. Other ZCTU members were arrested in Harare, Beitbridge, Bulawayo, Mutare and other urban centers. The day before the protests, in an apparent pre-emptive action, police also arrested a number of ZCTU leaders at their homes and offices in Rusape, Gweru, Chinhoyi and Kariba. (See UA 247/06, 14 September 2006, AFR 46/017/2006.)

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:

  • calling on the police and CIO to guarantee the safety of Edward Dzeka, Joyce Muwoni and other trade unionists in Chegutu who are being threatened;
  • urging the police and CIO to immediately investigate the threats reportedly made to the trade unionists by ZRP officers, and bring those responsible to justice;
  • urging the police and the CIO to respect trade unionists’ rights to freedom of association and assembly, guaranteed under Section 21 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, articles 10 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a state party;
  • reminding the police and the CIO that torture is prohibited under international law, as well as under Section 15 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, and that those accused of torture will be held accountable.

APPEALS TO:

Provincial Commanding Officer Mashonaland West Province
Zimbabwe Republic Police
P O Box 292,
Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe
Fax: 011 263 6725370
Salutation: Dear Provincial Commanding Officer

Zimbabwe Police Commissioner
Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri
Zimbabwe Republic Police
Police Headquarters
PO Box 8807
Causeway
Harare, Zimbabwe
Fax: 011 263 4 253 212
Salutation: Dear Commissioner

COPIES TO:

General Agriculture and Plantations Workers’ Union
PO Box 1952
Harare, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
P.O. Box 3549
Harare, Zimbabwe

Ambassador Dr. Machivenyika T. Mapuranga
Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe
1608 New Hampshire Ave. NW
Washington DC 20009
Fax: 1 202 483 9326
Email: info@zimbabwe-embassy.us
Via website: http://www.zimbabwe-embassy.us/contact.html

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if sending appeals after 17 May 2007.

Here’s the letter that I sent to the local police commander, with copies forwarded to the commissioner, the Zimbabwean Embassy, and to GAPWUZ and ZCTU.

Provincial Commanding Officer Mashonaland West Province
Zimbabwe Republic Police
P O Box 292,
Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe

Dear Provincial Commanding Officer:

I am writing to you today as a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, living and working in the United States. I am worried because I heard today that two of my fellow workers, Edward Dzeka and Joyce Muwoni, have gone into hiding after receiving threatening phone calls from people claiming to be officers of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Central Intelligence Organization. These calls reportedly threatened Dzeka and Muwoni in retaliation for organizing workers in Chegutu and on the surrounding farms. It is my understanding that Dzeka and Muwoni are being targeted and threatened by local authorities solely for organizing a peaceful demonstration as part of their work for the General Agriculture and Plantations Workers Union of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

Dzeka and Muwoni’s peaceful organizing work is an exercise of their inalienable human right to freedom of aassociation and freedom of political assembly, as recognized and protected under Section 21 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, as well as articles 10 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I urge you to protect the rights of my fellow workers in Zimbabwe–and to live up to Zimbabwe’s constitutional and international treaty obligations–by guaranteeing the safety of Edward Dzeka, Joyce Muwoni, and any other trade unionists in Chegutu subject to similar threats. I also urge the police and CIO to immediately investigate the reports of threats made against trade unionists by ZRP and CIO officers, and bring to justice any officers responsible for making these threats against peaceful union organizers.

My fellow unionists and I are following situation in Zimbabwe with grave concern, sir. They and I would appreciate a reply from you as soon as possible. In view of the above information, we urge you to investigate this situation and act as quickly as possible to assure the safety of trade unionists from threats or violence. Thank you for looking in advance for your time and, I hope, your prompt action in this urgent matter.

Sincerely,
Charles W. Johnson
Member, Industrial Workers of the World IU 640

You can help by writing your own appeal in support of Dzeka and Muwoni. If it helps, you should feel free to rip off my own letter as shamelessly as you like.

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3 replies to State violence against Zimbabwean trade unionists Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Discussed at www.bradspangler.com

    BradSpangler.com » Blog Archive » Zimbabwean trade unionists in hiding:

    […] RadGeek, we learn that Amnesty International says: Two Zimbabwean trade unionists have gone into hiding […]

— 2008 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-05-01 – May Day 2008:

    […] or kill them. (No word yet on whether the hazards the inspectors will be inspecting for include the Zimbabwe Republic Police or the Central Intelligence Organization.) We must never forget what this band of creeps and fools is doing their best to remind us of […]

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-06-12 – Inciting people to rise against the government and reporting falsehoods about people being killed:

    […] political supporters, while assaulting all popular movements independent of the government — especially workers’ unions — on the grounds that any movement independent of, or opposed to, the anti-imperial […]

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