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Cablegate: Zctu Detainees Released

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS HARARE 002045

SIPDIS

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB PGOV PHUM ZI
SUBJECT: ZCTU DETAINEES RELEASED

REF: A. HARARE 2035
B. 2002 HARARE 2784

1. Labor contacts report that most of the detained Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) supporters (ref A) were
released without spending the night in jail. In Harare, out
of forty-one detainees, twenty signed admissions of guilt and
paid a $5,000 (US$.88) fine. The remainder of the Harare
contingent, including senior leaders President Lovemore
Matombo and Secretary General Wellington Chibebe, refused to
sign an admission of guilt, and were told to report to the
courthouse this morning. The courts are currently hearing
their cases, and ZCTU expects charges to be brought under the
Public Order and Security Act (POSA). Initial reports from
other areas also indicate that few (if any) labor unionists
were kept in jail overnight.

2. The contacts also report that this was never intended to
be a stayaway or mass action, but simply a labor-led protest
at the deteriorating conditions facing most Zimbabweans. The
ZCTU planned to march to the Ministry of Finance to express
frustration with the constant shortages and increasing
burdens (including the income-tax creep which is placing many
of the lowest-paid Zimbabweans in 20 to 35 percent tax
brackets). Due to the demise of the independent newspaper
The Daily News, the protest had little advance public
warning, although labor groups had printed their own
broadsides listing their grievances.

3. Comment. The ZCTU believes that the instantaneous
response from international labor supporters was key in
gaining quick release for this group. When Chibebe was
arrested last December (also under POSA charges which were
never supported), he was kept incommunicado for days, moved
from one filthy cell to another, and beaten by his captors
(ref B). The public uproar over those actions seemed to take
the GOZ by surprise, and may have changed the rules of
engagement. This time, he was released within hours. The
ZCTU has long been adamant that some public challenge to the
status quo must be issued. While placing its leaders on the
front lines and setting them up for arrest was not the
expected strategy, it has certainly garnered a lot of
attention -- despite the lack of an independent daily
newspaper. End comment.
WHITEHEAD

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