Top labour leader denied Zim visa

HARARE - The leader of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) — the world’s largest trade union federation — has cancelled a fact-finding visit to Zimbabwe after he was denied a visa by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

ITUC secretary-general Diallo Mamadou had applied for a visa at the Zimbabwean embassy in Brussels, only to be told he could not be given one. Although Zimbabwe operates a visa-on-arrival system, hours before he set off, he was told he would not be eligible.

Meanwhile, ITUC secretary-general for Africa Kwasi Adu Amankwah was picked up after checking into a Harare hotel yesterday morning just after his arrival at the Robert Mugabe International Airport.

He was set to meet with leaders of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), president Peter Mutasa and secretary-general Japhet Moyo who are out on bail after being arrested for calling for the January national stay-away against an over 150 percent hike in fuel prices. 

Mutasa and Moyo have both been granted $2 000 bail and are reporting three times a week to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Law and Order section.

They are facing charges of attempting to subvert a constitutionally-elected government. 

Amankwa, the African leader for ITUC — whose primary mission is the promotion and defence of workers’ rights and interests — has reportedly stressed that his journey had no political purpose.

Amankwa, a veteran Ghanaian trade unionist, has been held incommunicado since his arrest, and denied access to public litigation lawyer Obey Shava of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

He is being held by the Department of Immigration at the airport and was yet to be handed over to police. It is unclear what charge is being preferred against him or if he faces deportation.

Mutasa told the Daily News: “Mamadou from ITUC Brussels was denied a visa.  Amankwah from ITUC Africa is held at the airport since morning. They are saying they want to assess something.

“We are worried about his further detention. We had bought breakfast for him but could not give him. Our lawyer Obey Shava was also denied access to his client. For Mamadou, no reasons were proffered, they just denied to give him visa.”

ITUC Africa yesterday wrote a letter to Mnangagwa appealing on him to intervene.

“This is to bring to your attention that the general-secretary of the African Regional Organisation of ITUC Africa … Amankwah has been forcefully taken from Jameson Hotel where he checked into upon arrival in Zimbabwe this morning 26th February 2019 by men from the department of Immigration of Zimbabwe.

“We are further informed that he has now been detained at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare. We fear he is being processed for deportation. We nevertheless, sincerely hope that this will not be the case.

“Mr President, we ask that your government take the necessary steps to ensure that … Amankwah is released and allowed to continue with his mission,” the letter to Mnangagwa said.

Efforts to speak to Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo were fruitless as his mobile phone was unavailable.

Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi promised to respond to questions sent to him but had not done so by the time of going to print.

Mutasa blasted the government for Amankwa’s harassment.

“We are now back to Mugabe’s time if it’s not worse. The situation is so bad people are now living in fear. They are beating, harassing and intimidating people on a daily basis,” the ZCTU president said.

Disgruntled workers last month downed tools to protest fuel price hikes and the ever-increasing cost of living that has rendered many people’s salaries useless.

To quell the protests, Mnangagwa dispatched the military in a clampdown that was condemned by the western world due to its heavy-handedness as well as reports of rape and torture of unarmed civilians.

Property worth millions of dollars was also destroyed and looted in the mayhem which ensued, after thousands of workers heeded a three-day strike call.

At least 20 people died, while 78 others were treated for serious gunshot wounds, according to rights groups and medical doctors.

Mutasa said “the struggle continues, no amount of force will stop us.”

“We are going to sit down and strategise on the way forward. We were formed to fight for the workers’ rights.

“As workers, I think the best way forward is for us to unite. Soon we are going to call all unions who belong to ZCTU or other federations. We must be united whether you are from the public sector or private sector. We have been robbed again. All our salaries have been eroded. We are facing a regime which doesn’t respect workers.”