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ZCTU demonstrations shut down, labour leaders detained
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
October 09, 2003

Zimbabwean workers and trade union leaders held demonstrations across the country on Wednesday 8 October to protest high taxation, the soaring cost of living, worsening transport problems, cash shortages and the persistent violation of human and trade union rights by the Zimbabwean Government.

In Bulawayo, ZCTU members began their demonstration and were marching through town when they were surrounded by the police and the demonstration was violently disrupted. Councillor Khumalo of the high density suburb of Pelandaba was severely beaten and was taken to hospital for treatment. The demonstrators were detained in police custody for most of the day. The majority of them were released after being charged under Section 24 of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA). Three bystanders at the demonstrations were still in custody on the morning of Thursday 9 October.

Police raided the offices of the ZCTU in Mutare on the morning of 8 October and confiscated materials including placards, flyers and t-shirts. The demonstrations went ahead all the same, and 100 activists were detained by the police for protesting. A lawyer from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) who went to the police station to defend the protestors was denied access to them. The group was released that afternoon after paying a fine under Section 7 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act.

In Harare, police immediately encircled 70 activists and closed down their demonstration. ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo, Secretary General Wellington Chibebe and Vice Presidents Lucia Matibenga and Collen Gwiyo were arrested with 37 other demonstrators. They were detained until late Wednesday night, and were released subject to summons on charges of violating the Miscellaneous Offences Act.

In Gweru, twelve organisers were arrested on Tuesday 7 October for distributing information about the action. They were detained overnight and released the morning of Wednesday 8 October. Police also arrested one labour leader in Masvingo and three in Chinhoyi for allegedly planning demonstrations.

The ZCTU had called for the demonstrations as a response to the desperate economic conditions now threatening Zimbabwe. They did not target a single individual or a political party. However, the state could not allow these protests to go ahead. In all cases, armed riot police acted swiftly to close down the demonstrations almost before they started. The demonstrations came only weeks after the forced closure of The Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper. The speed with which the police acted to disrupt these peaceful demonstrations is a further indication of the extent to which freedom of expression has truly been erased from the Zimbabwean landscape.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition applauds the conviction demonstrated by the protestors in risking arrest for the sake of their cause. The Coalition however denounces the paranoid and heavy handed policing employed by the regime in preventing even these peaceful demonstrations from going ahead. It further demands the immediate repeal of unjust laws such as POSA and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) that restrict people's Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. It instead urges government to uphold and respect citizens' rights to peacefully express their position on issues that affect their daily lives.

Crisis in Zimbabwe is a grouping of civil society organisations and coalitions whose vision is a democratic Zimbabwe. The Coalition's mandate is to address issues of governance and legitimacy.

Visit the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition fact sheet

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