NCA-MDC sponsored stay-away flops


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A stay-away organised by the National Constitutional Assembly and the Movement for Democratic Change flopped after the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions refused to endorse it because it did not have the mandate from the grassroots.

Eleven ZCTU leaders were, however, arrested while attending a seminar though they had distanced themselves from the intended stay-away.

NCA leader Lovemore Madhuku, who said he was in hiding, said there had been a 25 to 30percent participation . Others believed the participation was much lower.

Madhuku also said employers were partly responsible for the lower turnout. Police had also gone out to stop youths from stopping people going to work.

There were reports of violence in Kuwadzana where a by-election was pending following the death of MDC spokesman Learnmore Jongwe.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 02HARARE2784, ZCTU LEADERS ARRESTED IN ADVANCE OF FIZZLED

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

02HARARE2784

2002-12-10 13:12

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 002784

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

PARIS FOR NEARY

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ECON ELAB PHUM PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: ZCTU LEADERS ARRESTED IN ADVANCE OF FIZZLED

NCA/MDC-SPONSORED STAYAWAY

 

REF: A. HARARE 02620

B. HARARE 02726

 

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, NOT FOR INTERNET POSTING

 

1.(SBU) Summary. Reports indicate that eleven senior

members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) were

arrested by Zimbabwean police the day before a planned

mass-action stayaway which the ZCTU had not even endorsed.

Participation in the stayaway has been sporadic — possibly

because the ZCTU failed to support the stayaway call, which

originated from the leadership of the National Constitutional

Assembly (NCA) and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Anecdotal reports indicate that while traffic on Harare

streets is only marginally lighter than normal, at most only

25-30% of workers have actually heeded the call to stay home

from work within the capital city, and 20% may have

participated nationwide — figures that may well prove

optimistic. The ultimate success or failure of eventual mass

action could depend upon the evolving situation of the ZCTU’s

detained leadership, who ironically chose not to support the

abortive stayaway. End summary.

 

ZCTU Leaders Pay the Political Price Despite Attempts to

Distance Themselves

——————————————— ————-

 

2. (SBU) Wellington Chibebe, secretary general of the ZCTU

and a very recent IVP visitor to the US, along with ten other

high-level ZCTU leaders, was picked up by the police late in

the evening of December 9 at a labor seminar sponsored by the

AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center. According to reports, the

eleven were removed from the seminar by police although there

is no indication that they were charged with any criminal

activity. Attorneys are urgently attempting to locate the

eleven as well as obtain their release through the courts.

In typical GOZ fashion, the eleven detainees were not

immediately taken to a police station or charged, although

our contacts have heard unconfirmed reports that they are

currently being kept in two separate police stations in the

Mbare high-density area. Solidarity Center contacts state

that attorneys have not been granted access to the detainees

and have received no report on their condition. When (and

if) charges are actually brought, the eleven detainees are

likely to be charged with violating the repressive Public

Order and Security Act (POSA). The ZCTU has been very wary

of endorsing a mass-action stayaway without clear support

from the rank-and-file membership, reftel b, and they have

neither advised their membership to participate nor to flout

the call for a stayaway. Despite this public neutrality, the

GOZ has chosen the ZCTU as the most visible target of its

official displeasure at the call for mass action.

 

NCA Estimates 20% Nationwide Participation

——————————————

 

3. (SBU) Dr. Lovemore Madhuku, chairperson of the NCA,

confirmed that he was aware of the ZCTU arrests, and stated

that he is currently in hiding due to reports that the GOZ is

also searching for the NCA’s leaders. Madhuku believes that

they have achieved 25-30% participation in the stayaway among

workers in the Harare area, although the response outside of

Harare is believed to be much lower. Currently, the NCA’s

reports indicate 10% participation in Bulawayo and 20%

participation in Mutare, Gweru and Masvingo. Overall,

Madhuku estimates a 20% participation rate nationwide.

 

4. (SBU) Madhuku speculated on several causes which might

have had an impact on participation. He stated that (as with

the failed ZCTU stayaway in March) a lack of clear

communication may have limited worker response. Madhuku also

theorized that some employers may have refused to grant

absence without pay, which could have dampened the enthusiasm

of some workers in this harsh economic climate, especially as

the expensive outlays of the annual holiday season approach.

One strategy contemplated by the NCA was to have youths stand

at commuter omnibus stops to prevent workers from boarding

public transport. However, due to reported police presence

at some bus stops this morning, that strategy apparently

failed. There are unconfirmed reports of protests in some of

the high density areas, including reports that a commuter

omnibus was set on fire by youths in the Kuwadzana area.

(Comment: Kuwadzana was the former seat of recently deceased

MDC parliamentarian Learnmore Jongwe. This area, which will

be strongly contested by ZANU-PF in the upcoming by-election,

has been the recipient of massive political attention —

including reports of food distributions solely benefitting

ZANU-PF cardholders — in recent weeks. End comment.)

 

Companies Report Little Impact

——————————

 

5. (SBU) Although many employers are reluctant to give much

information over the phone due to fears of GOZ retribution,

several firms with American ties report little impact from

the stayaway. While most companies are open for business,

several have reported that some workers were late but ascribe

this to the ever-present transport difficulties.

 

Street Traffic Lighter, Security Presence Heavier than Usual

——————————————— —————

 

6. (SBU) The traffic on the streets — both pedestrian and

vehicular — is somewhat lighter than usual, although there

are several alternative explanations. Zimbabwean schools are

not in session, which generally means less omnibus traffic.

In the downtown area, anecdotal reports indicate that in

areas where parking spaces were completely occupied by 0830

yesterday morning, only about 2/3 were occupied at the same

time this morning. While some observers attribute this to

the fuel shortage rather than participation in the stayaway,

others note that those who drive private vehicles — managers

and professionals — would be less likely to support a mass

action stayaway than the rank-and-file workers, who are more

likely to commute via commuter omnibus.

 

7. (SBU) There is an increased military and police presence

on the streets, although even the MDC concedes that this is

“nothing too significant.” Laboff and visiting Deskoff,

returning from an offsite meeting, noticed a passing

transport truck loaded with police decked out in riot gear.

Despite the increased security presence, there have been no

reports of confrontations between security forces and

stayaway supporters in the business districts. However, two

separate sources have reported confrontations with police in

Chitungwiza and Mabvuku, high-density areas surrounding

Harare, in which people stoned vehicles including public

transport buses.

 

Comment

——-

 

8. (SBU) Consistent with previous expectations, see reftels

a and b, there was little hope of widespread participation in

this stayaway without massive buy-in from labor groups as

well as other members of civic society. Although the NCA and

the MDC were hoping for support from the ZCTU, the labor

organization has never publicly endorsed the calls for mass

action optimistically scheduled for this week. The ZCTU has

been very reluctant to call for participation in an action

which was not widely communicated and clearly destined to

succeed. The GOZ’s actions in pre-emptively arresting the

ZCTU’s leadership, however, speak loudly to the nervousness

of ZANU-PF. These arrests, ironically, may well spur the

ZCTU to a more aggressive response than they would otherwise

have chosen. With eleven top ZCTU elected officials arrested

despite their failure to endorse a mass stayaway, the GOZ may

have forced the ZCTU into a corner from which calls for mass

action are the only legitimate response.

WHITEHEAD

(10 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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