ILO team arrives to probe rights abuses


A three-member team of International Labour Organisations (ILO) officials is in Zimbabwe to probe alleged violations of trade union rights by the Zimbabwean government.

The team, which is led by Raymond Ranjeva, a senior judge with the International Court of Justice, is set to spend two weeks in the country.

Ranjeva is accompanied by Evance Rabban Kalula, University of Cape Town director of the institute of development and labour law, and Bertrand Ramcharan, a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The probe team will visit Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare to meet a total of 40 victims of labour rights abuses lined up to provide testimony of their experiences at the hands of the State apparatus. They will testify under oath.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president, Lovemore Matombo and his secretary general, Wellington Chibhebhe are among those who were assaulted by the police for taking part in a 2006 labour rights based demonstration.

The team shall however stick to labour issues as dictated by its terms of  reference.

It will meet President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai along with selected cabinet ministers and some service chiefs.

The commission has since met with labour minister, Pauline Mpariwa and the ZCTU leadership.

It will also meet the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU), a rival group to the ZCTU; co-ministers of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa as well as State Security minister, Sydney Sekeramayi.

The Director General of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), Happyton Bonyongwe; Police Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri; and Commissioner of Prisons, Retired Major General Paradzai Zimondi are the service chiefs scheduled to meet the team.

Also set to be met are Attorney General Johannes Tomana, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, Supreme Court Judges and magistrates.

Other government ministers include those of public service; education; Justice; foreign affairs; information and publicity; constitutional and parliamentary affairs and that of lands and resettlement.

The team will go on to meet the organ on national healing and reconciliation; the National Association of Non- Governmental Organisations (NANGO), human rights lawyers; African ambassadors; resident donors; and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.

ZCTU information officer, Khumbulani Ndlovu told The Zimbabwe Times Wednesday the decision to dispatch a commission of inquiry by the UN was through pressure by the labour union for the world body’s intervention to stop the continued workers’ rights violations by Harare.

The ILO is an organ of the UN.

“Since 2002,” she said, “the ZCTU has been making reports of trade union violations by the State, during ILO conferences.

“This led to the ZCTU being placed in the special paragraph resulting in the governing body appointing a commission of inquiry to come to Zimbabwe to investigate these reports.

“We have cases where the government was even refusing us permission to commemorate the Workers’ Day and to hold workshops.”

The resultant report set to be produced by the probe team after the completion of its mission is not likely to be in favour of the Zimbabwean government.

Past reports authored by human rights based teams from outside have accused President Mugabe’s government of rights abuses.

Mugabe, who claims the UN is controlled by powerful Western countries opposed to his continued stay in power, denies any rights abuses.

Mugabe said Tuesday his detractors were spreading falsehoods about his government because they were angered by the “peace and stability” prevailing in the country.

“Allegations of gross abuses of human rights or failure to respect good governance have provided fodder for the West and its media, as they repeatedly seek blemishes to stick onto our country.”

Should the ILO find Zimbabwe guilty of violating trade union rights, Zimbabwe will join countries like Myanmar and Colombia which have been blacklisted for similar violations.