A stay-away organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions was a success with between 70 to 90 percent of the workers staying at home but the United States embassy said Information Minister Jonathan Moyo could retaliate using the Public Order and Security Act.
“The ZCTU seems to be drawing strength from the widespread support of this call for mass action. We have received some reports of labour leaders being arrested in Bulawayo, and some national ZCTU leaders are reportedly in hiding ahead of rumoured Harare arrests,” the embassy said.
“The potential for massive retaliation remains a real threat, with Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo calling for criminal and civil penalties against labour union officials under the draconian Public Order and Security Act, which has given the GOZ great leeway for arrest and detention of opposition leaders.
“Given the widespread shutdown of businesses, it will be difficult for the GOZ to spin this stay-away as a failure. The combined efforts of both labour and the MDC in future calls to action will increase political and economic pressure on the GOZ,” it went on.
Viewing cable 03HARARE795, STAYAWAY, DAY TWO: NO BUSINESS, AS USUAL
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
250949Z Apr 03
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000795
STATE FOR AF/S, DRL
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/24/2013
SUBJECT: STAYAWAY, DAY TWO: NO BUSINESS, AS USUAL
REF: A. HARARE 779
¶B. HARARE 550
Classified By: Laboff KRBel for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).
¶1. (SBU) Summary. The second day of the ZCTU-called
stayaway continued with widespread industrial shutdown, many
banks closed, and more shops and grocery stores closed than
Wednesday. The GOZ seems determined to find a scapegoat that
minimizes public support, claiming that the ZCTU has paid
transport operators to abandon their regular routes.
Conflicting reports abound, but labor sources indicate that
they will not renew a call for an indefinite stayaway, but
will instead support the MDC when it renews calls in May for
a nationwide mass action. End summary.
Participation Remains High
¶2. (SBU) A quick tour through industrial Harare indicated
that businesses continued with a 70-90% shutdown rate (ref
a). Banks remained closed, for the most part, and many more
shops and grocery stores were locked. One press report
stated that infamous “labor leader” (and defeated Zanu-PF
candidate for Parliament) Joseph Chinotimba personally
intervened with a clothing store in downtown Harare, first
forcing the owner to open his shop, and later arresting the
owner for not keeping his business open. The GOZ-controlled
media has also claimed that the ZCTU paid transport operators
up to Zim $50,000 each to buy their cooperation and
compensate them for lost business in an effort to prevent
workers from reaching their jobs.
Rumors of Continuation Not Confirmed
¶3. (C) One local businessman reports that the ZCTU has
called for an additional four days of stayaway next week,
from April 29 through May 2 — and encompassing the May 1st
Labor Day holiday. However, we have received no
corroboration from labor contacts. By contrast, the
Solidarity Center rep reports that the stayaway will end as
of COB on Friday, and states that workers will report as
usual from Saturday onwards. This contact also stated that
the ZCTU intended this stayaway as an opening salvo, and will
now concentrate its efforts on coordinating with the MDC in
future mass actions scheduled for early May. Additionally,
MDC sources have previously indicated that they would not be
ready for a renewed call for mass action before May 5,
possibly as late as May 13. Although they may now intend to
capitalize on the momentum generated by the ZCTU’s action, we
have had no independent corroboration of such a plan.
GOZ Attempts to Spin the Situation
¶4. (SBU) The GOZ has been desperately attempting to pre-empt
further public mass action through concession, coercion, and
confusion. The GOZ-controlled press published stories of
new, reduced transport fees (with a maximum price of Zim $300
one-way) on the second day of the stayaway. The GOZ also
coupled this story with public threats of revocation of
licenses should transport operators fail to ply their
assigned routes. Today, on the third and final day of the
stayaway, the headlines trumpet newly announced minimum
wages, reportedly negotiated between government and
businesses under the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF),
despite the fact that labor — the third party — has
publicly disavowed further participation. In its statement
calling for the stayaway, the ZCTU publicly blasted the GOZ
for raising the fuel price unilaterally outside of the TNF
process (ref a) and announced that the previously negotiated
minimum wages had “been overtaken by events on the ground”
and were no longer adequate. Now, the GOZ is hailing the
“negotiated” minimum wage as a triumph for workers — at
levels agreed (but not signed into law) as early as March
(ref b), well before fuel was raised by 300%.
¶5. (C) The ZCTU seems to be drawing strength from the
widespread support of this call for mass action. We have
received some reports of labor leaders being arrested in
Bulawayo, and some national ZCTU leaders are reportedly in
hiding ahead of rumored Harare arrests. The potential for
massive retaliation remains a real threat, with Minister of
Information Jonathan Moyo calling for criminal and civil
penalties against labor union officials under the draconian
Public Order and Security Act, which has given the GOZ great
leeway for arrest and detention of opposition leaders. Given
the widespread shutdown of businesses, it will be difficult
for the GOZ to spin this stayaway as a failure. The combined
efforts of both labor and the MDC in future calls to action
will increase political and economic pressure on the GOZ.