Police on Saturday denied the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) permission to stage a planned demonstration in Harare against massive job cuts that have heavily decimated the labor force by nearly 20,000 in less than a month although in some cities peaceful marches took off amid heavy police presence with few workers participating.
ZCTU secretary general, Japhet Moyo, told Studio 7 that police gave them a number of reasons for denying them their constitutional right to demonstrate.
“There were a number of reasons that the police gave us including fear that the march would be hijacked by some people who they did not name,” he said.
Moyo added that in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West province, the march was stopped for a number of reasons chief of which was a government function said to have been taking place during the planned protests.
He said, however, they were satisfied with the protests in most major cities.
In Bulawayo, ZCTU Western region chairman, Ambrose Sibindi, said they were happy with the response of those who “braved” the “intimidating” number of police.
Sibindi estimated the number of people who took part in the demo at 1,500.
“There were a number of intimidating factors that forced most people not to take part in the protests. Some workers did not participate because they know that it is now very easy to lose your job,” he said.
More than 18,000 workers have been fired in less than three weeks after the Supreme Court last month ruled that it employers can retrench workers and not provide them with benefits on condition that they have been given three months’ notice.
The latest job cuts were at Zimbabwe Newspapers, publishers of The Herald, The Chronicle and other papers, where more than 100 workers including more than 30 journalists, are said to have been fired this weekend.
Government companies that have so far sent thousands of their workers home, citing the court ruling, include National Railways of Zimbabwe (350 workers), Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (309), Air Zimbabwe (100), Central Mechanical Engineering Department (200) and Grain Marketing Board (400).
But workers say the figures given by the government are being underplayed and could be triple more. The Supreme Court ruled that companies can fire workers by only giving them a three-month notice.