ZCTU arrests

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Sep 26 2007 21:49
ZCTU arrests

SW Radio Africa (London)
21 September 2007
Posted to the web 21 September 2007

By Henry Makiwa

Zimbabwean police arrested and held Kenneth Matombo, the brother of labour leader Lovemore plus one of his workers, for two days as a ploy to exchange their freedom for the capture of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union president.

The police have been trying to apprehend Lovemore Matombo and his entire leadership, including his secretary general Wellington Chibhebhe, since Monday for their role in organizing a two-day job boycott on Wednesday and Thursday. The entire leadership has been in hiding during this week.

According to lawyer Alec Muchadehama, the police visited the ZCTU president's Harare home on Monday night but were told that he was not home by his security guard whose name was given only as Steven. Only Matombo's brother Kenneth was in the house. After ransacking the entire house and confiscating mobile phones, they opted to seize the two as a bait to attract Matombo to the Harare central Police station.

Muchadehama says while in police custody, Kenneth and Steven were assaulted, interrogated and harassed before they were released on Thursday night on Z$40 000 fines.

Muchadehama said: "Kenneth and Steven were beaten up and were forcibly made to dance to music while in police custody. The charge preferred on them was of "criminal nuisance" on the pretext that they aided Matombo to go into hiding.

"Together with three other ZCTU activists who were held in Harare, they were denied legal assistance as the police threatened to hold them for as long as they wanted if the lawyers made any move to get involved. Their plan was of course to get the leadership to show up at the police station and then exchange them in return. It was a clear case of ransom," Muchadehama said. It is understood that the police are still looking for the ZCTU leadership.

Political commentator Farai Maguhu, said most people in the country's major cities had ignored the stayaway because the need to fend for their families outweighed the need to protest against government. He also said the heavy handedness of the security forces, who threatened the business community with closure, also influenced the outcome of the strike.

At least ten ZCTU activists and leaders were arrested countrywide between Monday and Thursday. Among them Reason Ngwenya, the regional chairman of the ZCTU in Matebeleland, who was picked up by police in Bulawayo on Tuesday. Police had assaulted and detained ZCTU National Organiser Michael Kandukutu, Tennyson Muchepfa from the National Engineering Workers' Unions, and Justice Mucheni from the Food Federation, the previous day.

Maguhu said: "The presence of the security forces that visited most business struck fear in workers. The arrest of the labour leaders also brought similar effects and as a result of the fear of state terror, people turned up for work.

"The ZCTU in future needs to consult the workers on the best strategy because their attempt seemed to lack enough consultation. People would have wanted to participate but there is need for the workers input before leadership calls for action," he said.
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