November 18, 2003

ZIMBABWE: Police prevent union protest against deepening crisis

More than 50 labour and pro-democracy activists were arrested in Zimbabwe as they assembled in preparation for a march to protest alleged rights abuses and massive price hikes.

Scores of people had managed to assemble in the centre of the capital, Harare, for the march to the ministry of finance, but hundreds of policemen broke up the demonstration before it could get underway and detained around 20 people. Among those arrested was the president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Lovemore Matombo, the union's secretary-general, Wellington Chibhebhe, Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, Brian Raftopolous, the head of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, as well as the director of Transparency Zimbabwe International, John Makumbe. The main labour union however abandoned a strike after authorities freed on bail most of those who were detained.

Part of the petition which was to have been handed over to the minister of finance read: "Almost every worker is taxed up to 45 percent of his or her wages and benefits, yet there is nothing to show for it. Our health delivery system, transport, educational system and all services have collapsed. In the context of the deepening crisis, workers and Zimbabweans in general can no longer enjoy basic economic rights such as the right to food, health, education, shelter, affordable accomodation, employment and security, among others."

Meanwhile, the police has formally charged those arrested in Harare with violating sections of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), i.e. organising an unlawful demonstration and hindering the free flow of traffic. (Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition / IRIN)

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