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American Labor Backs Zimbabwe Unionists


Representatives of US organized labor have vowed to continue protests at the Embassy of Zimbabwe in Washington on Friday against the Mugabe government’s suppression of union workers’ rights to demonstrate. Members of the largest American labor union, the AFLCIO, rallied on Monday at lunchtime in Washington against violence inflicted last week on more than 250 members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), who were arrested and beaten by police during a peaceful march on September 13 in the capital Harare and in other cities.

Kate Doherty is Director of the Solidarity Center, a group allied with the AFLCIO. She tells VOA English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser that international labor agrees strongly with Zimbabwe workers’ demands to air their economic grievances in public against the Mugabe government.

“An outrageous action like this brutality can only serve to strengthen resolve, and I think that even in discussions from his hospital bed, [Union General Secretary] Wellington Chibebe talked about the resolute determination of the ZCTU to continue in the struggle,” she said.

Doherty says the battered Zimbabwe labor chiefs will get their chance in the country’s judicial system to pursue their grievances.

“There will be a day in court,” she says, “in early October to hear about the charges against them. What the international labor movement is asking for is that those charges be dropped entirely because this was a peaceful demonstration that was taking place in order to protest huge economic hardships on people in Zimbabwe and to speak out.”

American organizers say they will hand Zimbabwe diplomats a letter asking that charges be dropped against ZCTU General Secretary Wellington Chibebe, ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo, and First Vice President Lucia Matibenga. The three were beaten up, minutes before a Harare protest could take shape.

“These charges must be dropped,” says Doherty. “Beyond that, there must be a full investigation into the circumstances that led to this violence against workers and their representatives.”

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