The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: SA Shooting - Zim Rights Groups Rapped

Labour and human rights groups in Zimbabwe have been slammed for their deafening silence on the shooting and continued abuse of South African mine workers.

South African police gunned down 34 mineworkers a fortnight ago as they protested over low wages at Lonmin Mine in Marikana.

On Monday, police and security guards also fired rubber bullets and teargas at four sacked gold miners at Gold One International Mine, seriously injuring one protester.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and human rights groups always invite their counterparts from South Africa to make noise when people are arrested for demonstrating and looting.

However, this time they are mum over the shooting and continued abuse of mine workers across the Limpopo.

ZCTU secretary-general Mr Japhet Moyo said the labour body had no plans to visit South Africa.

"We never thought it was necessary to send solidarity messages to Cosatu because we thought the South African system was more sophisticated than ours.

"They are rich, have judges and better systems. We think they can deal with such matters without us," he said.

He dismissed reports that they were silent because they were afraid of infuriating their Western sponsors, who have interests in the mines.

"We do not receive funding from any South African organisation including Cosatu . . .

"They are not our masters," he said.

He said Cosatu leaders came to Zimbabwe last time to assess the political environment after receiving reports that unions were now being "treated as political parties in Zimbabwe."

Mr Moyo said ZCTU received funding from some Nordic countries.

The MDC-T that claims to be a labour-backed party has also ignored the recent developments in South Africa.

The MDC-T spokesperson, Mr Douglas Mwonzora, on Tuesday said there was no need for his party to meddle in South African affairs.

He said his party viewed South Africa's systems as sophisticated and capable of dealing with its internal affairs.

"There was no need for that after there was an undertaking by the South African Government to investigate the matter.

"We were then confused when they started arresting workers. It's premature to think of that, given that South African authorities promised to handle the case," he said.

However, Zanu-PF spokesperson Cde Rugare Gumbo had no kind words for the ZCTU and its affiliates.

"That dead silence simply illustrates their pay masters are ordering them not to condemn the heinous acts. Such killings are only done in South Africa again and again," he said.

Such killings, Cde Gumbo said, were happening at a time when multinational companies were siphoning resources out of South Africa.

"There has to be a second revolution, which favours the majority, who are blacks. Trade unions are supposed to condemn that and it's the same characteristic we see in the MDC-T.

"The root of the whole problem is that the people are not wholly liberated politically and economically.

"They need to fight for total freedom for such acts to stop," Cde Gumbo said.

Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions Vice President Mr John Mangezi condemned the shootings and said they were meant to suppress the rights of black workers.

"The incidents are very unfortunate and years back Cosatu, led by Zwelinzima Vavi, was on the forefront in peddling falsehoods on behalf of imperialists, the ZCTU and MDC in Zimbabwe.

"The truth of the real situation in South Africa is now coming out. Labour unions in South Africa are not yet in the hands of black people but are still in the hands of the few white people who have black puppets that are on the forefront.

"Black people do not have power to control the industries owned by whites. Government and civic organisations are not active enough on behalf of the miners, especially at this sad moment," he said.

Mr Mangezi said it should have been declared national disasters.

"Civic organisations and the government are both supposed to come together and declare it a national disaster. Instead, miners who had grievances are now turned into killers.

"They are supposed to assist the miners until the matter reaches final stages than undermine them simply because they are blacks. They must probe the fact that most police officers in South Africa sympathise with white mine owners," said Mr Mangezi.

Ms Irene Petras, director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said they were in constant contact with their network in South Africa.

"We, however, feel the independent commission of inquiry is important to let people know what really happened," Ms Petras said.

She said no one condoned brutality.

MDC director for policy and research Mr Qhubani Moyo said South Africa should have labour policies that make it easy to deal with labour disputes of such a nature.

"The absence of properly defined parameters of balance between labour and capital creates these kinds of problems.

"We don't support loss of human life, be it for the workers that were protesting or that of the police officers who were on duty on those particular days," Mr Moyo said.

He said it was, however, important that the South African government and labour unions in that country were engaging over the shootings.

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