22 March 2013

Zimbabwe: Workers' Union Resolves Differences After Split By Zanu-PF

Talks are at an advanced stage to unite two rival factions of the Commercial Workers' Union of Zimbabwe (CWUZ) that have been running parallel structures since 2005.

Leaders from the two factions met in Bulawayo Friday to finalise unity talks and are set to announce the re-union at a general meeting planned for 24-26th April.

The Bulawayo meeting was held at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) western region offices, and follows one held in Harare recently.

Divisions within CWUZ surfaced after the death of secretary general Shangwa Chifamba, with Lucia Matibenga being seconded by the workers to take up the vacant post.

The choice of Matibenga, already a powerful member of the then opposition Movement for Democratic Change party which emerged from the ZCTU, did not go down well with some union employees.

According to CWUZ official Barbara Tanyanyiwa, who is leading the talks, the split was engineered by central intelligence operative Lovemore Mushonga, ZANU PF activist John Chifamba, and serial MDC flip-flopper Joubert Mudzumwe, who is also linked to ZANU PF.

Tanyanyiwa said the idea of uniting was first discussed last year, but the presence of Mudzumwe and Chifamba was a hindrance. The two have since left the rival union faction, paving the way for progress.

"Secondly, the ZCTU was pushing the two groups to unite since only one faction can be affiliated to the mother body. This means that workers in the unaffiliated camp have been missing out on ZCTU programmes, and we want to end that.

"The infighting was also affecting negotiations with employers as we were failing to speak with one voice. We then decided this could not go on and took the decision to put the workers first," Tanyanyiwa said.

Both Mudzumwe and Chifamba were fired by the union for embezzling what is now feared to be more than $219,000 from union coffers.

Initial reports had put the figure at $41,000 but Tanyanyiwa said a recent audit revealed that more was missing from union accounts.

"After their criminal case has been concluded, the CWUZ will be pursuing the two to recover the workers' money through the civil courts," Tanyanyiwa said.

If the latest allegations against Mudzumwe are true, this will be the biggest fraud case involving union funds since the formation of the CWUZ.

Bulawayo-based journalist Lionel Saungweme, who attended the two factions' meeting, said the departure of Mudzumwe, Chifamba and the late Mushonga heralded a new chapter for the workers' union.

Saungweme said Mudzumwe has demonstrated his penchant for factionalism through his association with first the united MDC, then the Welshman Ncube-led MDC, before finally joining Arthur Mutambara's faction.

"The CWUZ is the largest ZCTU affiliate in the country and it would make sense for ZANU PF to use the likes of Mudzumwe to weaken workers' unions which are seen as opposition party strongholds," Saungweme added.

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