BWI affiliates under the umbrella of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) legitimately called for a three-day ‘Stay Away’ peaceful protest from 14 to 16 January 2019 in response to the government’s announcement of steep fuel price increases that worsened an already unbearable high cost of living situation in the country.
Since Monday, 14 January security forces continue its violent attacks against trade unions and arrest of union leaders. There are reports of heavy military and police presence on the streets and security forces are arbitrarily assaulting citizens, including entering homes to drag out and beat people in an effort to instill fear and to clamp down on dissent. Twelve people have reportedly been killed with many injured during the protests. To date, over two hundred have been arrested.
Furthermore, mobile and landline communications, the internet and social media were blocked for two days to prevent access to information and communication. This high handedness by the security forces demonstrates that the government is reneging on its duty to ensure that the country’s social climate is free of violence and fear.
The attempts to silence and punish dissent and to undermine the rights of workers and citizens to protest are brazen and unacceptable. Workers have the right to express their views on the government’s economic programs, including through peaceful demonstrations in an atmosphere free of fear, intimidation, coercion, repression and violence.
We, therefore, call on the government of Zimbabwe to do the following:
1. Immediately stop all attacks by the police and other security forces against workers, trade union leaders and other citizens.
2. Immediate and unconditional release of all who have been arrested and detained during the demonstrations.
3. Accept ZCTU demands for social dialogue with all national stakeholders to find solutions to address the current economic difficulties the country is facing.
4. Establish an independent judicial inquiry on the recent police violence and punish those found guilty as a deterrent for further acts of violence.