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Cablegate: Zim Police Shoot Striking Labor Leaders

VZCZCXRO4425
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0788/01 2801435
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 071435Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4978
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 2386
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 3065
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 3177
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1606
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2440
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2809
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 3225
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5672
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2359
RUZEHAA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000788

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

AF/S FOR B. WALCH
DRL FOR N. WILETT
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR M. GAVIN
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L. DOBBINS AND E. LOKEN
STATE PASS TO DOL FOR S. HALEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB EMIN PHUM PGOV ASEC ZI
SUBJECT: ZIM POLICE SHOOT STRIKING LABOR LEADERS

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) In a recent meeting, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)
Secretary General Wellington Chibebe described in detail the recent
shooting of three labor leaders at a government-owned asbestos mine
in central Zimbabwe. The workers were shot after a three-week
strike had ground production at the mine to a halt; management
allegedly called in police and Central Intelligence Organization
(CIO) to coerce the workers back to the job. Since the shooting,
labor leaders have been fired and continue to face harassment.
Chibebe also outlined the status of the current International Labor
Organization (ILO) Commission of Inquiry into labor abuses in
Zimbabwe. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On October 2, we met with the Secretary General of the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Wellington Chibebe, along
with the ZCTU lawyer and information officer. Chibebe discussed a
recent violent attack on labor leaders at the Shabanie asbestos mine
and the outcome of an ILO Commission of Inquiry visit. (NOTE: ZCTU's
controversial position on the constitution-making process will be
reported septel. END NOTE.)

---------------------------------
Shabanie Mine: Police Shoot
and Arrest Striking Labor Leaders
---------------------------------

3. (SBU) Chibebe detailed the ongoing and violent labor dispute at
the government-owned Shabanie asbestos mine in central Zimbabwe. On
September 25, six police officers fired at a crowd and shot three
members of the mine's labor committee during a peaceful sit-in at
the mine; the shooting came during a protracted and tense strike.
The roughly 2,280 mine workers went on strike on August 31 because
they had only been receiving US$20-US$40 per month since the
beginning of 2009, although their pay slips showed they should be
paid US$150. Management at the mine announced all outstanding wages
and allowances would be paid on August 31, but failed to do so,
prompting the strike. According to the workers, the company
management invited intelligence officers from the CIO to harass
workers. Around the third week of the strike, CIO agents briefly
abducted some of the labor leaders and threatened them to attempt to
get them to go back to work.

4. (SBU) The workers refused to go back to work and gathered near
the company on September 25 while waiting to meet with the mine
directors. The crowd numbered over 1,000 and included some of the
workers' spouses. According to ZCTU, management did not attend the
meeting and instead sent six riot police armed with AK-47s and
teargas. When one of the leaders, Alois Zhou, asked where the
management leaders were, the police beat him with a gun and shot him
on the leg and hand. Police also threw teargas canisters towards
Qon the leg and hand. Police also threw teargas canisters towards
the sitting workers. Two other leaders, Taurai Zhou and Simbarashe
Chinhadada, were also shot in the leg as they ran away from police.
(NOTE: The three men are all MDC councilors as well as members of
the mine's labor committee. END NOTE.) Police also beat one labor
leader's wife. She received medical treatment and is now in hiding
from the CIO, which is threatening her because they believe she has
photos of the incident on her cell phone.

5. (SBU) After the shooting, the three men initially went to a
nearby public hospital. They were afraid to go to the mine's
hospital because the doctor there (Dr. Mataga) is a member of the

HARARE 00000788 002 OF 003


ZANU-PF central committee. When a lawyer from Zimbabwe Lawyers for
Human Rights (ZLHR), Tichaona Chivasa, attempted to visit the three
in the hospital, police denied him access, arrested him, and charged
him with "obstruction of justice." Another lawyer went to the
police station several hours later to rescue him, and charges were
dropped. The three shooting victims have since been moved to a
Harare hospital; one underwent surgery for his injuries.

6. (U) Immediately after the sit-in, more than 50 workers were
arrested and detained. Nine spent the weekend in jail and, together
with the three shooting victims, were charged with public violence.
All were released on September 28 on US$10 bail.


7. (U) On September 29, police and armed CIO officers visited other
workers at their homes and threatened that they must return to work
or face eviction. The same day, armed CIO visited ZCTU's Zvishavane
District Secretary at his home and demanded to know what ZCTU
planned to do in response to the mine strike. The CIO warned him
not to work with the mine workers. Because the majority of mine
employees live in mine-owned housing and feared further violence,
roughly 75 percent of workers returned to work on September 30.
They have not received any of their back pay and expect to be paid
US$20-US$40 again this month.

8. (U) According to ZCTU, eight labor leaders employed at the mine
-- including the three shooting victims -- were dismissed on
September 30. Their lawyer was not told about the hearing. The
workers were charged with being absent from work without leave,
defying the memo to return to work, and illegal work stoppage. The
eight who were dismissed are known for their MDC activism. Workers
who belong to ZANU-PF were reinstated. In a long memo to Minister
of Labor Paurina Mupariwa (MDC-T), ZCTU asks what the difference is
between "the inclusive government and the colonial masters..." and
declares that the incident at Shabanie "proves that slavery is back
in Zimbabwe."

9. (U) On Friday October 2, co-Minister of Home Affairs Giles
Mutsekwa (MDC-T) decried the incident and said that he was
disappointed that senior officials at the mine had tried to cover up
for the police. Mutsekwa said, "We have repeatedly told the police
that they should always refrain from using firearms against
defenseless people." He also declared that the government was going
to make the incident a "cabinet issue." ZCTU has called for
Mutsekwa and co-Minister Kembo Mohadi (ZANU-PF) to resign and for an
official inquiry into the shootings.

---------------------------
Shabanie: ZANU-PF Cash Cow?
---------------------------


10. (SBU) The mine has reportedly fallen into disrepair since the
Q10. (SBU) The mine has reportedly fallen into disrepair since the
Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) took it over in 2004. After
expropriating Shabanie and Mashava Mines (the two largest asbestos
mines in Zimbabwe) from SMM Holdings, the government appointed
Arafas Gwaradzimba as administrator. According to Chibebe,
Gwaradzimba is a "ZANU-PF strongman" closely aligned to Defense
Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who grew up nearby. SMM was once one
of Zimbabwe's largest single employers with close to 6,000 employees
and export earnings accounting for a significant proportion of the
country's export revenues. The former owner, Mutemwa Mawere, a
crusader of the black economic empowerment mantra, fell out with
Mugabe and was charged with illegally externalizing foreign currency

HARARE 00000788 003 OF 003


in 2004. Using the charges as justification, the government took
over SMM. Mawere fled to South Africa and has been fighting the
take-over in court ever since.

11. (U) Some observers believe ZANU-PF benefits from the cash flow
the Shabanie mine generates, even though the company has not
prospered under GOZ management. The Financial Times has reported
that the charges against Mawere had kept the mine from securing
loans it needs to replace ageing equipment. In a report to Legal
Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa in May, Gwaradzimba said the
situation at the two mines had deteriorated with equipment in urgent
need of replacement: "as it stands right now, it is extremely
dangerous to carry out mining activities because of the sorry and
sad state of the mines' plant and equipment."

--------------------------------------
ILO Report on Labor Abuses Forthcoming
--------------------------------------

12. (SBU) Turning to the ILO's ongoing, broad investigation into
labor rights violations in Zimbabwe, Chibebe explained that the
ILO's Commission of Inquiry should release its preliminary report to
the ILO governing board by the end of October. (NOTE: The
Commission of Inquiry is the ILO's highest level investigation, and
the Zimbabwe investigation is only the twelfth that the ILO has ever
undertaken. END NOTE.) The Commission began work in February 2009
after ZCTU complained to the international body that the government
had violated international labor standards. ZCTU has presented the
Commission with information on violations since 2002. The recent
incident at Shabanie Mine will be discussed at an ILO meeting in
March. Chibebe expects that the governing board will discuss
Zimbabwe at its next meeting in November.

13. (SBU) The three-member Commission visited Zimbabwe in April and
August to investigate the claims. Although they requested to meet
with President Mugabe and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, both
refused. The delegation did meet with the ZANU-PF Ministers of
Information (Webster Shamu) and Foreign Affairs (Simbarashe
Mumbengegwi). The delegates were followed by CIO during both visits
but were generally free to investigate. The investigation aims to
look at whether the government has violated ILO conventions 87
(Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize) and
98 (Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining).

-------
COMMENT
-------

14. (SBU) The shooting at Shabanie is further proof that rule of law
and respect for labor rights have not yet returned to Zimbabwe. The
entire series of events from the mine's refusal to pay employees
their full wage to the lawyer's incarceration when attempting to
visit the victims in the hospital reads like a laundry list of human
Qvisit the victims in the hospital reads like a laundry list of human
rights violations - none of which have been adequately addressed by
the government. While the ILO Commission of Inquiry will likely
produce a damning report documenting labor violations going back to
2002, recent events at Shabanie demonstrate that even international
attention probably will not change the situation for workers on the
ground absent fundamental change in Zimbabwe's governing process.
END COMMENT.

PETTERSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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