US ambassador says labour politics in Zimbabwe is dirty- Wikileaks


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Labour politics in Zimbabwe is dirty and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions’ current leadership is undemocratic, selfish and controlling.

This was said two years ago by United States ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee in a cable dispatched in April 2009, two months after the Movement for Democratic Change entered into an inclusive government with the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.

The cable said while the ZCTU affiliates still maintained the appearance of solidarity with international observers they were unhappy with the ZCTU’s efforts to advance labour in Zimbabwe.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09HARARE276, LABOR ANALYSIS: ZCTU’S INTERNAL STRUGGLES (PART 2

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09HARARE276

2009-04-02 14:00

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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DE RUEHSB #0276/01 0921400

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O 021400Z APR 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4312

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2747

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2869

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1315

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2134

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2490

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2917

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5358

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2036

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 HARARE 000276

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. WALCH

DRL FOR N. WILETT AND T. DANG

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/02/2019

TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM KDEM ELAB ZI

SUBJECT: LABOR ANALYSIS: ZCTU’S INTERNAL STRUGGLES (PART 2

OF 2)

 

REF: A. HARARE 275

B. 07 HARARE 1004

 

Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (b) and (d).

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (SBU) This is the second in a two-part series analyzing

the labor movement in Zimbabwe. Part one (Ref A) examined

the history of the labor movement and the current struggles

unions are facing. Part two examines the internal political

struggles within the labor movement and its relationship with

the MDC leadership.

 

2. (C) As the largest force for workers’ rights in Zimbabwe

since independence, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions

(ZCTU) has transformed itself from an appendage of the

ZANU-PF government in the early 1980s, to an opposition force

throughout the 1990s, and now is closely affiliated with the

MDC. Labor politics in Zimbabwe, however, are dirty, and

ZCTU’s current leadership has been described by its own

affiliates as undemocratic, selfish, and controlling. While

still maintaining the appearance of solidarity with

international observers, ZCTU affiliate unions are unhappy

with ZCTU’s efforts to advance labor in Zimbabwe. END

SUMMARY.

 

———————————————

ZCTU Leaders: Motivated by Politics or Power?

———————————————

 

3. (C) ZCTU has evolved from a tool of ZANU-PF in the early

1980s, to an opposition force in the 1990s, to a close ally

of the MDC for the last decade (Ref A). In 2000, now-Prime

Minister Mogan Tsvangirai ended his 11-year tenure as the

ZCTU’s Secretary General to form the MDC, taking a host of

labor leaders with him and creating a leadership vacuum

within ZCTU. In a meeting on March 26, ZCTU’s Secretary

General Wellington Chibebe — who initially worked in a

railway union — unconvincingly explained to poloffs that he

didn’t really want to be selected Secretary General at ZCTU’s

2001 conference, but he grudgingly accepted when it appeared

no one else would step up to the position. At the 2001 ZCTU

General Conference the other prominent leadership role was

filled by Lovemore Matombo as President.

 

4. (C) While the two are widely touted by international

labor movements as heroes and champions of labor rights, they

are controversial figures within the labor movement in

Zimbabwe. Union leaders described strained relationships

between the two and factions within ZCTU that follow each

leader. Notably, Tsvangirai reportedly retains a closer

relationship with Matombo.

 

5. (C) Several leaders we spoke with question whether

Matombo and Chibebe are motivated by a desire to help workers

or political power and international recognition. On March

18, Raymond Majongwe, Secretary General of the Progressive

Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) — who admitted he does

not get along with Chibebe — told us that he and other

affiliates are upset that ZCTU has not taken significant

action to challenge either the government or the MDC in the

Qaction to challenge either the government or the MDC in the

last year. He admitted ZCTU has issued some statements, but

complained that they haven’t “actually done anything” in the

last year. Majongwe opined that Chibebe and Matombo are more

motivated by international travel and fame than continuing

ZCTU’s role as a vocal and visible force calling for human

rights and improved work conditions.

 

 

HARARE 00000276 002 OF 005

 

 

6. (C) On March 19, Matthew Takaona, President of the

Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, also complained to us that

ZCTU had become too quiet in seeking political interventions

in the last couple years. He said that ZCTU has been

reluctant to launch interventions or protests against the

cash shortages, school closures, and political violence in

2008. He opined that ZCTU has grown overly dependent on its

sister organization, the Congress of South African Trade

Unions (COSATU) to make public statements and push for

regional pressure on Zimbabwe.

 

——————————————— —

Vote Rigging Allegations within ZCTU Leadership

——————————————— —

 

7. (C) Some labor leaders report that the current

“undemocratic” Executive Council resulted from a questionable

election at the 2006 ZCTU General Conference. Wellington

Likukuma, Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Bankers and

Allied Workers Union; Tonderai Kanengoni, Deputy Secretary

General of the Transportation and General Workers Union, and

Majongwe told us separately between March 16 and 26 that

First Vice President Lucia Matibenga had severely exaggerated

the membership of her union to gain more votes in the 2006

ZCTU elections. All three told us that Matibenga had bought

the Executive Council by claiming her union had a membership

of 42,000 employees rather than its actual membership of

around 15,000. (NOTE: In electing the leadership at the

General Conference every five years, each affiliate is

allocated one vote per 1,000 union members. END NOTE.)

 

8. (C) By inflating the size of her union and exploiting her

close relationship to Matombo, Matibenga ensured that she was

elected First Vice President. According to Majongwe,

Likukuma, and Kanengoni, the majority of the nine-member ZCTU

Executive is beholden to Matibenga as a result of the 2006

election. The current leadership will remain until the next

ZCTU General Conference, scheduled for 2011. (NOTE: Matibenga

is a controversial figure and faced allegations of rigging

votes in the MDC Women’s Assembly as well (Ref. B). END NOTE.)

 

9. (C) Majongwe further criticized the Executive Council for

its notable exclusion of representatives of civil servants,

who comprise a majority of the formal labor force. The

Employers, Confederation of Zimbabwe estimated in mid-March

that just 6 percent of Zimbabweans work in the formal

economy; 80 percent of whom work for the Zimbabwean

government. Separately, the Ministry of Finance told us

civil servants make up half of the formally employed. Based

on these estimates, only 1 percent to 3 percent of

Zimbabweans work in the formal private sector. (NOTE: Because

the Public Service Act, which governs public sector

employees, does not allow government workers the right to

collective bargaining, there are no strong unions for civil

servants other than teachers. END NOTE.)

 

——————————————— —

Q——————————————– —-

Little Public Action Since Violent 2006 Protests

——————————————— —

 

10. (C) In the 1990s and early 2000s, ZCTU spearheaded

numerous large and effective stay-aways and marches, often

resulting in repeated arrests, beatings, and sometimes

torture by security forces. ZCTU’s current leadership has

been arrested and beaten on numerous occasions, although

since 2006, there have been few large public rallies led by

ZCTU. During protests in September 2006 calling for living

wages and anti-retroviral drugs for those living with HIV,

Chibebe, Matombo, Matibenga and other labor leaders were

arrested and then brutally beaten and tortured by police.

Chibebe showed us the scars from the plate placed in his

 

HARARE 00000276 003 OF 005

 

 

forearm. He continues to suffer pain and can no longer make

a fist with his left hand because of the injuries he

sustained in police custody. He told us that ZANU-PF

hardliner Didymus Mutasa, now Minister of State for

Presidential Affairs, had ordered their beating. In a

February meeting, Matibenga held up her arm that was broken

by police in 2006 and proclaimed she was tired of getting

beaten.

 

11. (SBU) Nevertheless, the 2006 protests and beatings

greatly increased the ZCTU leaders’ international recognition

and prominence, leading to travel, awards, and speaking

engagements for the leaders. The beatings also appear to

have served their purpose to discourage mass popular action

by ZCTU, as there have been few large or effective popular

protests by ZCTU since then.

 

——————

Where’s the Money?

——————

 

12. (C) When asked about ZCTU’s leadership, Likukuma shook

his head and described them as a “selfish lot.” He decried

the status of his union, which is suffering financially,

while ZCTU builds its relationships with international

organizations and fails to distribute assistance to other

unions. Takaona told us ZCTU had offered his union members

limited assistance in the last year: US$100 per month to

seven journalists who were fired from the Zimbabwe Broadcast

Company (ZBC) while their labor dispute drags on, and some

money to supplement the union’s rent. Kanengoni also

complained about a lack of funds coming from ZCTU, which he

believes has significant access to international resources.

(COMMENT: We doubt ZCTU has adequate resources to help all of

its affiliates. In our visits to ZCTU’s crowded offices,

modern computers are notably absent. END COMMENT.)

 

——————————————— —-

Attempts to Micromanage the Affiliates (and Us)

——————————————— —-

 

13. (C) Majongwe and Likukuma also explained that ZCTU has

at times interfered with affiliates’ activities and sought to

reign in “errant” messages. Majongwe, who is routinely

featured in the local and international and local press on

teacher’s issues — without seeking ZCTU permission —

believes ZCTU leadership seeks to neutralize his union (PTUZ)

by courting the alternative union, Zimbabwe Teachers’

Association (ZIMTA), to join ZCTU. As the larger of the two

teachers’ unions, ZIMTA’s votes could cancel out PTUZ’s at

future General Conference meetings. ZIMTA Chief Executive

Officer Sophiso Ndlovu told us that he believed by joining

ZCTU, ZIMTA would have increased access to funds through

ZCTU’s international partners.

 

14. (C) In the same vein, it is worth noting that our March

26 meeting with Chibebe began with a scolding. Chibebe

chided poloff that a February closed-door round-table of

labor leaders, which included poloffs, labor economist

Godfrey Kanyenze (who directs the research arm of ZCTU),

Majongwe, Matibenga, and the ZCTU Acting Secretary General,

QMajongwe, Matibenga, and the ZCTU Acting Secretary General,

should have been organized with the permission of ZCTU.

During the round-table at the Embassy, organized to introduce

a visiting poloff to labor issues, union and ZCTU leaders

openly disagreed about whether or not the MDC should join the

unity government.

 

15. (C) Although we viewed this as an open and healthy

debate at the time, Chibebe was clearly unhappy that we had

sought out other labor leaders’ opinions. He told us that

only the ZCTU executive can speak for ZCTU, “regardless of

 

HARARE 00000276 004 OF 005

 

 

what local affiliates think.” Fisseha Tekie of the

Solidarity Center, which works closely with Chibebe, also

told us that the round-table had stoked differences between

the labor leaders and we should engage ZCTU leadership and

the affiliate unions separately. We apologized to both Tekie

and Chibebe if we had offended them, but assured both that we

understood there were differences of opinion among labor

leaders about political issues, which is why we seek out

wide-ranging opinions.

 

————————————

Tsvangirai Seeks to Retain Influence

————————————

 

16. (C) According to several recent press reports,

Tsvangirai is considering naming Chibebe as governor of

Harare and Matibenga as governor of Masvingo. Chibebe

explained to us that he has not been formally asked to serve

as governor, and that the MDC has neither confirmed nor

denied the offer. Separately on March 26, Matibenga

confirmed that the MDC had offered her the position, although

political negotiations continue to leave Tsvangirai’s

candidates hanging while the issue of governorships remains

unresolved.

 

17. (C) In regard to the offers, Takaona opined that

Tsvangirai sought to remove Chibebe and Matibenga from ZCTU’s

Executive in favor of his closer ally, Matombo. In addition,

governorships are not especially powerful, and Takaona

believed that these appointments could be a means of

neutralizing Chibebe and Matibenga’s influence and power

without a formal power struggle. Matibenga claimed that she

would take the position if formally offered, although she

preferred to continue in her current role as an MP and member

of ZCTU’s Executive. She further explained Tsvangirai had

made the offer as a means to allay rumors of a continued rift

between her and Tsvangirai following his decision to dissolve

the MDC Women’s Assembly in 2007, which she led (Ref B).

(NOTE: Matibenga also serves on the International Labor

Organization’s Executive Council and would likely be forced

to resign if she accepted the governorship. END NOTE.)

 

———————————-

Dance With the One Who Brought You

———————————-

 

18. (C) COMMENT: ZCTU has mastered its international public

relations game, securing awards from international unions,

including several in the United States, and rightfully

gaining recognition for the persecution it has long suffered

at the hands of the ZANU-PF-led government. However, ZCTU

clearly has neglected its own foot soldiers in recent years

and engaged in ugly political infighting and power struggles.

None of the labor leaders we talked with spoke highly of

ZCTU’s leadership since Tsvangirai’s departure.

 

19. (C) Although ZCTU likely does not have the significant

resources affiliates would believe, perception is everything

and the suffering affiliates have little empathy for the ZCTU

executive’s inability to provide financial resources.

Qexecutive’s inability to provide financial resources.

Additionally, the close political relationship between the

Executive and the MDC and international community only add to

the belief that ZCTU should be able to provide resources to

its struggling member unions.

 

20. (C) In some ways, the affiliates’ comments about the

ZCTU Executive mirror complaints about MDC leaders who have

risen to prominence and then forget the “little guys” who

brought them to power in the first place. Since the MDC was

born of the labor movement, it is disappointing — but

perhaps not surprising — that ZCTU’s leadership would commit

 

HARARE 00000276 005 OF 005

 

 

the same mistake and neglect its own constituents. END

COMMENT.

 

MCGEE

(65 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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