Back to Index
Zimbabwe bars South Africa union team
By Cris Chinaka
February 02, 2005
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe
on Wednesday barred trade union leaders from key ally South Africa
who tried to enter the country on a pre-election fact-finding mission,
saying they were visitors with a hostile agenda.
The delegation from the
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) -- allied to South
African President Thabo Mbeki's ruling ANC -- returned home vowing
to step up pressure for political change in Zimbabwe.
President Robert Mugabe's
government has been accused of rigging past elections and opposition
leaders said limited reforms ahead of March 31 polls favour the
government's action confirms reports that it is contemptuous of
human rights and civil liberties," COSATU said in a statement
issued in Johannesburg. "We will not abandon our colleagues
in Zimbabwe in their hour of need."
Mugabe's government had
first threatened to jail the COSATU delegation but officials said
it had opted to deport them from the airport to avoid embarrassing
Mbeki, who has resisted calls for a tough line over allegations
of political repression by Mugabe.
The move nevertheless
highlighted tensions between Harare and South Africa ahead of Zimbabwe's
parliamentary elections on March 31, which regional leaders have
described as an important test of Harare's commitment to democratic
Both Mugabe and Mbeki
were in Mozambique on Wednesday for the inauguration of President
Armando Guebuza, who succeeded that country's longtime president
following peaceful elections in December.
In Harare, Zimbabwean
labour leaders waved at their South African counterparts who responded
with waves and victory signs from behind the immigration barrier.
"Where do you think
you are? This is not Africa, this is not Zimbabwe, this is North
Korea!" Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Secretary
General Wellington Chibebe shouted jokingly at the South African
ZCTU President Lovemore
Matombo said COSATU's expulsion showed hopes for democratic change
in Zimbabwe were remote.
"The situation in
this country is now self-explanatory. No one needs an explanation
of what repression we are facing and what repression we are fighting."
Zimbabwe's Labour Minister
Paul Mangwana told Reuters the group was denied entry because it
had not followed procedure for gaining approval for such a visit.
"We do not understand
why they did not want to follow protocol, unless they had a hostile
agenda," Mangwana said.
Mugabe's government expelled
a similar COSATU fact-finding mission last October, saying it was
acting in concert with Western countries led by former colonial
COSATU is an official
alliance partner of Mbeki's ruling African National Congress (ANC)
but has taken a much tougher line on Zimbabwe than the South African
COSATU said on Wednesday
it would meet with ZCTU officials in South Africa on Thursday to
discuss the way forward.
"We are back not
as a defeated force," COSATU Secretary General Zwelenzima Vavi
told reporters upon returning to Johannesburg airport. "This
serves as an education to millions of South Africans who are not
exposed to the truth of what is happening in Zimbabwe."
The South African Communist
Party, the third element of the ANC's official ruling alliance,
also condemned Harare's move and called on the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) to ensure regionally agreed electoral
guidelines are strictly adhered to in the March polls.
Zimbabwe's main opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has accused Mugabe of stealing
earlier elections and has yet to decide whether to contest next
month's polls, saying it was unclear whether the vote would be either
free or fair.
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.