Police were more prepared when the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions tried to organise protest marches which promoted United States ambassador Christopher Dell to comment that the government did not take the National Constitutional Assembly seriously.
NCA leader Lovemore Madhuku had organised protests earlier and had boasted that he had a new tactic which put off the police resulting in them arresting very few people, only 16.
Dell said unlike the NCA protests; the police were ready for the ZCTU. The greater vigilance of the police likely reflected growing government concern at a more visible opposition.
Police disrupted the ZCTU demonstration and arrested labour leaders Lovemore Matombo and Wellington Chibebe and 120 other ZCTU activists.
ZCTU spokesman Mlamleli Sibanda said that the protestors had achieved their main objective and had delivered a petition to the Ministry of Finance.
The petition demanded a minimum wage of at least Z$9.5 million (the Poverty Datum Line), a maximum of a 30 percent income tax, free anti-retro-viral drugs (ARVs), an improvement in fuel availability, and protection of jobs by not allowing cheap, substandard Chinese goods into Zimbabwe.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1534, TRADE UNION PROTESTS AND ARRESTS
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001534
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010
SUBJECT: TRADE UNION PROTESTS AND ARRESTS
REF: A) HARARE 1527 B) HARARE 981 C) HARARE 703 D)
HARARE 671 E) HARARE 617
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.4 b/d
¶1. (C) The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) staged
protests in six major cities across Zimbabwe on November 8,
ending with the delivery of a petition to the Minister of
Finance on the country’s economic meltdown. At least 120
people ZCTU activists, including ZCTU President Lovermore
Matombo and General Secretary Wellington Chibebe, were
arrested as a result of the demonstrations. ZCTU
Spokesperson Mlamleli Sibanda declared the action a success.
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) leader Lovemore
Madhuku and others arrested in connection with the NCA’s
November 5 marches remain incarcerated. End Summary.
Harare Protest Makes an Impact
¶2. (C) The ZCTU had planned to stage protests in Harare,
Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru, Masvingo, and Chinhoyi on November
¶8. The police disrupted the protest in Harare, which ZCTU
claimed included 500 people. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights (ZLHR) representative Irene Petras told PolOff on
November 8 that police had arrested 120 ZCTU activists in
Harare, with 116 still in police custody on November 9,
including General Secretary Wellington Chibebe and President
Lovemore Matombo. In a circular distributed on November 9,
the labor union noted unconfirmed reports that Chibebe and
others had been tortured the previous night. (Post has since
confirmed with ZCTU lawyers that Chibebe has so far not been
physically abused in custody.)
¶3. (C) Despite the arrests, Sibanda stated that the
protestors had achieved their main objective and had
delivered a petition to the Ministry of Finance. The
petition demanded a minimum wage of at least Z$9.5 million
(the Poverty Datum Line), a maximum of a 30 percent income
tax, free anti-retro-viral drugs (ARVs), an improvement in
fuel availability, and protection of jobs by not allowing
cheap, substandard Chinese goods into Zimbabwe.
Other Protests Less Successful
¶4. (C) Sibanda claimed the protests in Bulawayo and Mutare
had each drawn 200 people. However, suspended Mutare mayor
M.T. Kagurabadza and local Bulawayo businessman Jyotirdhar
Laxmidas independently told PolOff that the police had
prevented the marches in both cities by arresting key
individuals before the protests started. Police also
reportedly cordoned off areas in Gweru, Chinhoyi, and
Masvingo to prevent the protests in those cities from going
¶5. (SBU) For its part, the state media acknowledged the
protests but downplayed their significance. It reported the
arrest of the leadership, which it claimed was acting without
the concurrence of ZCTU’s constituent unions, and urged the
public to cooperate with police against “disruptive” and
¶6. (C) The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) put out a
press statement on November 9 stating that NCA,s Chairman
Lovemore Madhuku was still being detained at Stodart Police
Station in the Mbare high-density suburb of Harare. The
statement went on to say that Chitungwiza Mayor Mischeck
Shoko and NCA Field Officer for Manicaland Bernard Dube were
arrested on November 9.
¶7. (C) Unlike the NCA protests over the weekend, the police
were ready for the ZCTU on November 8. The greater vigilance
of the police likely reflects growing GOZ concern at a more
visible opposition. However, if the pace of protests
continues to increase — with more planned actions for this
coming week (Ref A) — the loyalty and resolve of the police
may be further tested.