Mpofu threatens to deal with companies that support stay-away


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Despite claims that the two-day stay-away organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions had been a failure, Industry and Trade Minister Obert Mpofu threatened unspecified action against companies that supported the stay-away.

The stay-away had been called to protest the paltry wages and deteriorating living conditions.

Reports said despite the poor wages most workers had shunned the stay-away because they were afraid of losing their jobs.

Government intimidation was also said to be a factor.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 07HARARE301, LABOR STAYAWAY PRODUCES MIXED RESULTS

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

07HARARE301

2007-04-05 16:16

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO6304

PP RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0301/01 0951616

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 051616Z APR 07

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1344

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1559

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1420

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RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0826

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1189

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1618

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4022

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1388

RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 2046

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0688

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC//DHO-7//

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1780

RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK//DOOC/ECMO/CC/DAO/DOB/DOI//

RUEPGBA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE//ECJ23-CH/ECJ5M//

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000301

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

USAID FOR M. COPSON AND E. LOKEN

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/05/2017

TAGS: PHUM PGOV ELAB ZI

SUBJECT: LABOR STAYAWAY PRODUCES MIXED RESULTS

 

REF: A. HARARE 000275

 

B. HARARE 000269

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.5 b/d

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (SBU) The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) two-day

nationwide stay-away attracted a mixed response. Many

businesses in Harare and other major cities closed or had

limited operations at the start of the first day with a

greater percentage of workers in the country’s depressed

industrial sector heeding the stay-away than in the service

sector. However, by midday on the first day business had

begun to return to normal and by the second day virtually all

businesses had reopened. Government intimidation combined

with poor planning and workers’ fears of losing jobs were

limiting factors. ZCTU claimed the action was relatively

effective given the repressive environment and promised

additional labor actions in the coming months. End Summary.

 

—————————————–

Labor Stay-Away Attracts a Mixed Response

—————————————–

 

2. (U) The ZCTU nationwide stay-away to protest paltry wages

and deteriorating living conditions on April 3 and 4

attracted a mixed response from workers. Anecdotally, a fair

number of workers heeded the call initially and many shops

and factories were closed or were operating in a reduced

capacity on the morning of the first day of the stay-away.

Traffic throughout the city center and industrial areas in

Harare was light and there was a noticeable reduction in

public transport. Participation by workers in the hard-hit

industrial sector appeared higher than in other parts of the

economy.

 

3. (U) However, by midday on the first day Harare’s city

center had begun to return to business as usual as police

went door to door forcing businesses to fully open. By the

second day traffic and business activities throughout the

country appeared back to normal, including in industrial

areas.

 

————————–

Intimidation Limits Effect

————————–

 

4. (U) Government intimidation was a factor in the

stay-away’s limited success. In the days leading up to the

labor action, the government-controlled newspaper The Herald

ran front page headlines warning workers to ignore the

“illegal” stay-away and threatening that police would be out

in force to ensure shops were open. In one article, Labor

Minister Nicolas Goche said employers would be expected “to

deal with the workers” who chose to stay-away.

 

5. (SBU) In the event, security forces were out in force

throughout the stay-away, especially in Harare’s city center

and the capital’s high-density suburbs. On the morning of

the first day, Embassy officers observed Army helicopters

circling above the high density suburbs of Highfield, Glen

Nora, and Dzivaresekwa. Water cannon trucks were also seen

 

HARARE 00000301 002 OF 003

 

 

patrolling the streets in these areas. There was a large

police presence in the city center, including heavily armed

riot police.

 

6. (U) Government harassment even continued the day after the

stay-away ended. In Thursday’s edition of The Herald a front

page headline read ‘State to take action against firms for

turning away workers.’ Industry Minister Obert Mpofu said in

the related article that the government wanted to identify

those abetting the stay-away so that it could confront them

about their motives and invoke “certain measures” against

sympathizers.

 

————————————-

Job Fears, Poor Planning Also Factors

————————————-

 

7. (C) Several observers noted that workers were not only

afraid of losing their jobs but also could not afford to take

even one day off given their low wages. That said, these

observers thought the stay-away could have been more

successful with better planning. MacDonald Mangauzani,

spokesperson for the ZCTU affiliate Progressive Teachers

Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), told poloff that PTUZ never

received flyers or information about the stay-away from ZCTU

that they could pass on to their members and local

representatives to use to organize support.

 

8. (C) In a briefing to civil society in Bulawayo the week

before the stay-away, ZCTU organizers complained they

resource constraints were hampering their ability to

disseminate information and run logistics. As a result, much

of what workers in Harare and throughout the country learned

about the stay-away came from the government-controlled media

that labeled the labor action as illegal and warned that

workers could be fired for participating.

 

————

ZCTU Unbowed

————

 

9. (SBU) Despite the mixed success of the stay-away, ZCTU

officials remained defiant. ZCTU Secretary General

Wellington Chibebe claimed in a Voice of America interview on

April 3 that an estimated 80 percent of workers in Harare

participated in the stay-away for at least portion of the

first day. Even though the level of participation was less

on the second day, ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo told

reporters that “considering the beatings and intimidation we

have witnessed recently, the stay-away was quite successful.”

Both leaders indicated that ZCTU planned more labor actions

in the coming months.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

10. (C) The government-controlled press spent the two days of

the stay-away trumpeting its failure. It is therefore

curious that in the immediate aftermath, those same

newspapers were threatening punishment for businesses that

abetted the labor action. Although the stay-away was not the

success the ZCTU might have hoped for, it was also not the

failure the government would like to claim. Moreover,

although the extraordinary efforts of the government to

 

HARARE 00000301 003 OF 003

 

 

suppress participation were largely successful, they were

also costly and will be increasingly difficult to repeat as

the economy implodes and government revenues dry up.

DELL

(2 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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