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Union Leader Flees Zimbabwe

The leader of Zimbabwe's largest trade union says she fled to South Africa because she was being harassed by the police.

The general-secretary the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union, Gertrude Hambira, first went into hiding in Harare last November, days before the documentary, House of Justice, was released in Johannesburg.

At the premier of the documentary in Johannesburg she told journalists farm workers had suffered more than their white employers since Mr. Mugabe began seizing white-owned farms in 2000. She said many of them had died since the seizures or were unemployed - and those retained by the new farmers, who are mostly senior ZANU-PF officials, are often under paid.

She said the plight of farm workers and violence on the few hundred remaining white-run commercial farms has been ignored by the Southern African Development Community of which Zimbabwe is a member. "This is an appeal to SADC leaders to end violence on Zimbabwe's farms," said Hambira.

Hambira returned to Zimbabwe, but a week ago was called in for questioning by police in central Harare. Colleagues say police and security agents then called at her Harare offices and her home and she went into hiding again.

According to Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions President Lovemore Matombo, Hambira fled to South Africa and seven of Hambira's colleagues have gone into hiding, fearing arrest.

Matombo says lawlessness, human-rights abuses and repression continues in Zimbabwe a year after an inclusive government of ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change was formed.

Police spokesmen in Harare were not available for comment.

Meanwhile, a Congress of South African Trade Unions statement said the group fully supports Zimbabwe workers in "their very difficult situation, as a result of intensified persecution against them". The trade-union federation confirmed Hambira is in South Africa and said it is aware of the grave situation in Zimbabwe.

The COSATU statement said it would seek assurances from Zimbabwe's security ministers, who are mostly loyal to ZANU-PF, that they would ensure Hambira's safety and stop threatening her with arrest.