Zimbabwe is one of the 10 worst countries in the world for working people
Arrests during strikes
Zimbabwe remained one of the most hostile countries in the world for trade unionists as ZANU-PF, the ruling party, called the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the main trade union organisation in the country, a “terrorist organisation”.
Following the violent attacks against workers during the general strikes organised in October 2018 and January 2019, ZCTU leadership remained under constant harassment and surveillance by the police, and its president, Peter Mutasa, was placed on the most wanted person list by the police.
Strikes were severely repressed with arrests and dismissals.
Workers' rights violations
Right to privacy
In Zimbabwe, since the arrest of ZCTU leaders in January 2019 and their subsequent release in November 2019, the ZCTU president, Peter Mutasa, and the secretary general, Japhet Moyo, have both remained a target of state persecution. Even though the charges against them were withdrawn in November 2019, their cell phones remained confiscated and their bail deposits have not been refunded. Prosecution insisted that the police were still investigating the ZCTU leadership. Peter Mutasa was placed on the most-wanted persons list by the police, while the homes of ZCTU leaders were constantly monitored by the police.
Right to free speech and assembly
The government of Zimbabwe banned demonstrations against the deteriorating social and economic crisis in the country that were planned for 31 July 2020. Labour activists, students, journalists and organisers of the demonstrations were arrested and charged with inciting violence and attempting to overthrow the government. The actual demonstrations were stifled by a heavy police and army presence, and the few who took placards out to the streets were arrested.
Right to justice
On 27 July 2020, the Zimbabwean ruling party, ZANU-PF, convened a press conference in which the spokesperson, Patrick Chinamasa, attacked and labelled the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) a “Trojan Horse of the MDC-Alliance and a terrorist organisation together with the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition”, a civil society organisation.
On the same day, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) issued a statement that they were hunting down ZCTU president Peter Mutasa, as well as Obert Masaraure and Robson Chere, leaders of the Amalgated Rural Teachers Union (ARTUZ), with regard to the 31 July 2019 strike. The day after, police began a manhunt for ZCTU member Godfrey Tsenengamu, Peter Mutasa and eleven other political and union members, requesting members of the public to supply information on the location of the activists. No statement was released on the reasons behind this manhunt.
In early 2020, the Footwear and Tanners Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe (FTAWUZ), a ZCTU affiliate, submitted to the shoemaking company Bata a list of over 500 workers they had organised into a union and requested that the company remit to the union the deductions of union subscription through the check-off system. Bata flatly refused to proceed, claiming that workers, members of FTAWUZ, were also members of another union and using the pretext that during the COVID-19 lockdown, the check-off agreement was not applicable. To date, more than 200 of the unionised employees are still being denied recognition of their union rights.
Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes
On 6 July 2020, the Zimbabwean Nurses’ Association (ZINA) organised strikes in Harare and Bulawayo to request a salary review and their outstanding COVID-19 allowances as well as the adequate provision of personal protective equipment. Prior to the protests, the government had rendered the Bipartite Negotiating Panel for the sector useless, unilaterally declaring that it would not be engaging in any form of collective bargaining for the next three months. Instead of opening dialogue, the government ordered the arrest of thirteen nurses. They have since been released on bail, but all have been dismissed. Strikes continued for 33 days without a return to negotiations.