Acid test for the courts to give a legal or political judgement?

Manifestatie ZCTU
Demonstratie van Zimbabwaanse koepelvakbond ZCTU

The 4th of February 2020 will be an important day for labour activists in Zimbabwe and beyond as nineteen out of the twenty-eight trade unionists are set to appear in front of courts across the country following their arrests on charges of ‘participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence.’

The charges emanate from their participation in January 2018 protests, over fuel hikes and country’s economic woes.  The protests descended into chaos as heavily armed police and military descended on the protestors.   By the end of the week, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum had recorded 844 human rights violations including 12 deaths, 78 gunshot injuries, 242 incidents of assault, torture, and inhuman and degrading treatment; 46 incidents of vandalism and looting; and 466 arbitrary detentions.

Seven other labour activists form Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) including union their leaders, union President Peter Mutasa as well as Secretary General Japhet Moyo, who were arrested in October 2018 over the protest were subsequently acquitted in April 2019 after a protracted court battle.  The prosecution had failed to prove a case against them. Moyo and Mutasa who faced additional charges of subversion have also been acquitted on the charge.


The arrests of trade leaders highlights continued repression of trade unions in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe’s long history of repression against organised labour in the country dates back to early days of independence.  The crack down on trade unionists and other civil society activists continues unabated, in fact seems to be escalating despite promises of a new dispensation by the Mnangagwa presidency.  The ZANU (PF) is increasing closing in on civil rights liberties as evidenced by its attempts to  push through the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill  which could have far reaching consequences for the exercise of fundamental freedoms; particularly  the rights to assembly and association, to demonstrate and petition, and to freedom of expression.

FOS stands in unwavering solidarity with the labour activist’s throughout the legal process and in their continued work for human rights, social justice and dignity.   To other activists whose story has not been told, we stand with you.


Auteur: Dawu Sehlaphi Sibanda