October 10, 2003

Trade Unionists announce further protests

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) vowed to continue with mass action despite police swooping on dozens of its members gathered in Harare to protest against high taxes and soaring inflation. Almost half the Zimbabwean unionists arrested in the capital have in the meantime been released after paying an "admission of guilt" fine. ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo and secretary-general Wellington Chibebe, who were among the 51 activists detained on Wednesday, Oct 9, were also released. Both men refused to pay the fine, preferring to appear in court instead.

Matombo and Chibhebhe were charged under the country's Miscellaneous Offences law for conduct likely to disturb the peace. In Mutare, near the Mozambique border, over 100 people were arrested, while two people were in police custody in the country's second city, Bulawayo. There were unconfirmed reports in Bulawayo that Thabitha Khumalo, a member of the union's women's advisory council, was among several ZCTU leaders injured in running battles with the police. Following the arrest, ZCTU alleged that police had refused ambulances permission to carry the injured to hospital. "The ZCTU views this as a gross violation of human rights, where people of Zimbabwe are not allowed to express themselves, especially at this time when the lives of people are so unbearable," the union said in a statement. (IRIN)

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