The secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Wellington Chibebe asked for assistance from the United States embassy in Harare to enable him to attend the International Labour Conference in 2002 and also for US assistance to mobilise support for the ZCTU’s official delegate status.
Chibebe was afraid that the government might sponsor the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions, which was said to be government-sponsored to attend the conference. The main player in the ZFTU at the time was its vice-President Joseph Chinotimba.
Chibebe was concerned that politics might win the day and that ZFTU may prevail in an accreditation fight.
The embassy said it would investigate ways of sponsoring Chibebe and ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo and recommended that their travel be sponsored by Solidarity Centre.
Viewing cable 02HARARE1183, ZCTU’S BATTLE FOR SURVIVAL AT THE UPCOMING ILO
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 001183
STATE FOR AFIS AND DRL/IL, NSC FOR SENIOR AF DIRECTOR
FRAZER, LONDON FOR CGURNEY, PARIS FOR CNEARY, NAIROBI FOR
PFLAUMER, BRUSSELS FOR USEU:WAGNER, GENEVA FOR HAGEN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/15/2012
SUBJECT: ZCTU’S BATTLE FOR SURVIVAL AT THE UPCOMING ILO
Classified By: Classified by KRBel for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).
¶1. (C) This is an action request — see paragraph 6.
¶2. (C) Summary. LABOFF met May 15 with Wellington Chibebe of
the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). Chibebe
expressed concern that the GOZ would use the upcoming ILO
conference in Geneva as another forum in which to attack the
legitimacy of his organization. Chibebe requested assistance
to enable him to attend the conference along with ZCTU
President Lovemore Matombo (Matombo’s travel costs have
already been covered). Additionally, Chibebe requested our
assistance in mobilizing support for ZCTU’s official delegate
status should the GOZ attempt to appoint as the “official”
Zimbabwean labor delegate another labor organization it
created to counter the ZCTU’s broad influence. End summary.
¶3. (C) In the course of a meeting with Laboff, Wellington
Chibebe, Secretary General of the ZCTU, stated that he has
been informed that both ZCTU and the GOZ-sponsored Zimbabwe
Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) would be allowed by the GOZ
to travel to Geneva for the upcoming ILO congress. The ZFTU
is a shell organization created by ZANU-PF/GOZ as a more
controllable counterpart to the legitimate ZCTU. The ZFTU
has used strong-arm tactics against employers to convince
workers to join up, but thus far the only group with
widescale membership in the ZFTU is the sugar plantation
workers. Within that industry, the GOZ has reportedly
pressured the employers while the ZFTU has coerced the
workers, with the result being a mass shift of workers’
allegiance (as well as their membership dues) from the
ZCTU-affiliated sugar workers’ union to the ZFTU. While the
true size of the organization as well as its leadership is
unclear, “war vet” Joseph Chinotimba, self-proclaimed
commander of the farm invasions and ZANU-PF’s chief worker
bee and enforcer, is the ZFTU’s vice president.
¶4. (C) The GOZ has not yet indicated which organization will
receive government appointment as the official Zimbabwean
delegation, and Chibebe believes that the GOZ may postpone
announcing its intentions until the last possible minute.
Chibebe’s concern is that the GOZ may well appoint the ZFTU
as the official delegation while relegating the ZCTU to an
“advisory” role. If this happens, the ZCTU will dispute the
appointment and the matter will go to the ILO Accreditation
Committee, which is chaired by Benin. Chibebe is concerned
that politics may win the day and that ZFTU may prevail in an
accreditation fight. Late reports on May 17 indicate that
the GOZ intends to invite both ZCTU and ZFTU to the Geneva
meeting as if they had equal status.
¶5. (C) Post is already investigating possible means of
sponsoring Chibebe to attend the conference along with ZCTU
president Lovemore Matombo, whose attendance has already been
funded by other sponsors. However, ZCTU is under severe
financial pressure and does not have the money to send
Chibebe outright. Chibebe can offer vital assistance by
lobbying for support for the ZCTU among the other delegates,
in the event that such a showdown develops. Further, even if
such a struggle does not develop, Chibebe’s attendance will
enhance his international profile and confirm the USG’s
support for the ZCTU.
¶6. (C) Action requested: Post recommends that Solidarity
Center be contacted to sponsor Chibebe’s travel to the ILO
meeting. Post also recommends that the Department and/or DOL
approach other international labor groupings and delegates to
solicit their support that the ZCTU be recognized as
Zimbabwe’s official delegation. In addition to weighing in
with the ICFTU, it will be important to address our concerns
to other national and regional labor organizations. As
Chibebe noted, Mugabe is willing to play the “race card”
without compunction, and pressure from a western labor group
alone could play into Mugabe’s “African unity” rhetoric.
Other groups which could be approached include WCL, SATUCC,
ICFTU-Afro, OAUTU (Organization of African Unity Trade
Unions), and COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions).
¶7. (C) Suggested talking points:
— We understand the GOZ may be planning to accredit the
ZFTU, an organization created by and controlled by the
Zimbabwean government and ZANU-PF, at the upcoming
International Labor Congress. This would relegate the ZCTU,
the ILO-accredited representative of Zimbabwean labor, an
affiliate of the ICFTU and the legitimate representative of
the vast majority of Zimbabwean workers, to an “advisory”
— Such an outcome would be a violation of the principles of
democratically free trade unionism which the ILO supports.
— Such an action would also indicate the desire of the
Zimbabwean government to bring the Zimbabwean labor movement
under government/party control and to impose political
retribution on the ZCTU and its members for allegedly
opposing Mugabe and Zanu-PF in the recent flawed presidential
— The USG supports the ZCTU’s effort to retain its
legitimate seat in the International Labor Congress and to
reject efforts to designate a government-puppet labor
organization as a labor federation with full ILO recognition.
— We urge the ICFTU (or insert appropriate other
organization) to back official accreditation of the ZCTU in
the ILO as well and to urge its affiliates to stand behind
the ZCTU as the legitimate representation of organized labor
End suggested points.