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Solidarity with the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe!
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
April 03, 2007

South Africans, and Zimbabweans living in South Africa, will be marching in Johannesburg on Tuesday 3 April in solidarity with our comrades in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), as they embark on their two-day national stayaway in protest against slavery wages and the attacks on workers' and human rights by the Mugabe government.

COSATU is giving its full support to its trade union comrades in Zimbabwe, as they struggle against an economic catastrophe and more and more vicious attacks on their members and leaders. Speakers will include COSATU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi.

The crisis in Zimbabwe scaled new heights last month, with Gift Tandare's savage murder and the arrest, beating and torture of leaders of the two MDC factions and other government opponents. The latest outrage is the abduction by soldiers of nine MDC activists from the hospital where they were recovering from beatings while in police custody.

The government is ruthlessly trampling on human rights to try to crush the resistance of opposition parties, civil society organisations and trade unions.

Meanwhile the economy is collapsing. Annual inflation is now over 1,700% - the highest in the world. Unemployment is around 80%. Many people survive on grain handouts and an estimated 3 million people - around 28% of the population - have fled into neighbouring countries looking for work. Many Zimbabwean doctors, nurses, teachers and others with scarce skills do any menial job on offer in the region.

There are regular shortages of food, fuel and foreign exchange. Maize production has dropped to less than what people need to survive. Average life expectancy is now the lowest in the world - less than 37. The country is among the worst hit by HIV/Aids pandemic, with 18% of the adult population HIV positive.

No wonder Zimbabwean workers are taking to the streets, at huge personal risk, to say that enough is enough.

COSATU welcomes the spirit of unity displayed by the two MDC factions on 10 March, who appeared in a public event together, and hopes that this heralds the emergence of unity in support of democracy and human rights.

There are no quick-fix solutions for Zimbabwe's economic, political and social woes, but the key to any solution has to be the broadest possible mass movement, led by the organised working class. Only the united resistance of the people can force President Mugabe to engage directly with the ZCTU, the opposition parties business and civil society and open the road to democracy.

We call upon the governments of South Africa and the rest of the continent to condemn the Zimbabwe government's human rights abuses and undemocratic actions. International solidarity, from Zimbabweans and others, played a key role in the liberation of South Africans from apartheid. Now is the time to repay our debt to today's freedom fighters in Zimbabwe.

We back the ZCTU's demands for:

* Minimum wages and salaries linked to the Poverty Datum Line (PDL)
* Reduction of Income Tax to a 30% maximum.
* Workers earning below the PDL (84 000 as at August 2006) not to be taxed.
* Availability and free access to Antiretrovirals (ARVs)
* Stabilisation of prices of basic commodities
* A stop to harassment of informal economy workers by local authority police and the ZRP

South Africa must condemn attacks on human rights! Defend democracy and workers' rights!

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)

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