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  • ZCTU National Labour Protest - Sept 13, 2006 - Index of articles

  • Zim union leaders try to scrap 'illegal' protest case
    Mail & Guardian (SA)
    October 30, 2006

    Lawyers for Zimbabwean labour union leaders facing charges of trying to launch an illegal protest against President Robert Mugabe's rule sought on Monday to have the case scrapped.

    Lawyer Alec Muchadehama told a magistrate's court that the law the 30 leaders and members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) were alleged to have breached actually violated basic constitutional rights.

    Muchadehama said he was filing an appeal in the Supreme Court, adding that the charges were "too vague and not reasonably justified in a democratic society".

    "The charge sheet does not specify who did what in the crowd," Muchadehama told magistrate William Bhila.

    The ZCTU leaders were forced to abandon plans for a slew of anti-government marches over the spiralling cost of living when police arrested them for breaching the Criminal Law Codification Act on September 13.

    The ZCTU had hoped to rope in thousands to denounce fuel and food shortages, four-digit inflation and 80% unemployment -- which critics blame on economic mismanagement by Mugabe's government.

    The lawyers said ZCTU secretary general Wellington Chibebe had a fractured arm while 29 others sustained bruises and cuts after being assaulted in police custody.

    State prosecutor Tawanda Zvekare had argued that the union leaders marched through central Harare, chanting slogans against Mugabe, the army and the police and damaged police trucks during skirmishes with riot police.

    The union leaders have denied the charge and argued through their lawyers that their detention in police custody was illegal.

    Magistrate Bhila will rule on December 4 whether to refer the matter to the Supreme Court.

    Demonstrations by the ZCTU threatened to bring Zimbabwe to its knees in the late 1990s.

    But Mugabe's opponents have been unable to take advantage of the current economic crisis as a result of internal divisions within the opposition and fear of the security services. -- AFP

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