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Zimbabwe: Union Leader Sees Tuesday's Strike Action as a Duty

Zimbabwe is bracing for a two-day national strike Tuesday to protest the state of the country’s economy. The country’s main labor group, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade of Unions, called for the stay-at-home strike. On Sunday, the government called on Zimbabwean workers to ignore what it called politically motivated strike.

Lucia Matibenga is first vice president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. From Harare, she told VOA all was set for Tuesday's strike to get underway.

“Our general council convened on Friday, last week, whereby they emphasized that we are going ahead with the general strike. And no leadership in their single capacity has the authority to call it off. It has to be called off only by the general council. So what it is is that the strike action is going ahead. The preparations were stepped up yesterday with distribution of more flyers to inform people around the country,” she said.

Matibenga said she and the other union leaders are concerned about their own safety, but that it will not deter them from doing what is necessary.

“We are very much concerned at our own safety. But I think the biggest challenge that we have is that do we give in before we achieve what we want to do, or do we soldier on? As you know, we were also subjected to similar treatment in September last year. But that does not stop us from representing and carrying out the agenda and objective of the people that elected us to lead them,” she said.

On Sunday, the government called on Zimbabwean workers to ignore what it called the politically motivated strike. But Matibenga said the strike has already succeeded before it even begins.

“For us, the action has already succeeded before it has even taken place because the government is running around trying to de-campaign and dissuade our members from participating, and I have no doubt they can even resort to forced measures to making sure that people return to work. That does not matter. We are highly motivate and encouraged by the response of the entire international trade union family,” she said.

Matibenga said international trade union organizations such as the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions, Nigerian Labor Congress, and unions in the United Kingdom were preparing for what she called direct action to support the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

President Robert Mugabe’s government has accused the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of being behind Tuesday’s planned strike. Matibenga said she is a bonafide member of the MDC.

“I am also the MDC chairman of the Women’s Assembly, and I don’t really think that that is an issue. It’s my democratic right to belong to a political party of my choice. I once was a member of ZANU, and I was still in the trade union movement, and nothing was being said about,” Matibenga said.