[Marxism] Cosatu statement on SADC/Zim; police brutality in South Africa

glparramatta glparramatta at greenleft.org.au
Mon Aug 27 16:43:37 MDT 2007

COSATU statement on SADC and Zimbabwe

The Congress of South African Trade Unions deplores the apparent lack of 
any real progress at the SADC Summit Meeting in Lusaka to resolve the 
worsening economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe and the lack of 
transparency in the way the heads of government discussed the issue.

Zimbabwe's economic meltdown is having a devastating effect on the 
workers and the majority of the people. Unemployment is over 80%; 
inflation is estimated to be at 7,635%, and shops are running out of 
many essential food and other products. Thousands of people are fleeing 
into neighbouring countries every day, in a desperate and often 
dangerous attempt to escape the poverty, hunger and political repression 
that afflicts them in Zimbabwe.

Political repression continues unabated. The latest outrageous attack on 
democracy is the government's reported demand that the Attorney General 
prosecute Wellington Chibebe, Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Congress 
of Trade Unions. The charges relate to statements he made on 1 May 
urging workers to launch mass protests against Mugabe, and others 
attacking the government's "price war" and a call for a day of "national 
action in August". In no democratic country could such statement 
conceivably constitute a criminal offence.

According to President Mbeki's letter from the President in ANC Today, 
24 August 2007, the SADC Summit Meeting, "approved the urgent initiation 
of a process that would identify the measures that the SADC region 
should take to assist in the economic recovery of Zimbabwe". In reality 
however there is little in the President's letter to suggest the sort of 
radical measures that the situation demands.

The SADC Secretariat report merely says that "the restoration of the 
country's foreign exchange generating capacity through Balance of 
Payments support is crucial: however, the most urgent action that is 
needed to start this process is to establish lines of credit to enable 
Zimbabwe to import inputs for its productive sectors, particularly for 
agriculture and foreign currency generating sectors".

It also calls for SADC to "do all it can to help Zimbabwe address the 
issue of sanctions, which is not only hurting the economy through 
failure to get Balance of Payments support and lines of credit, but also 
through reduced markets for its products. Sanctions also damage the 
image of Zimbabwe, causing a severe blow to her tourist sector".

It further calls on the Zimbabwe government "to implement robust 
policies to reduce the overvaluation of the exchange rate, to reduce the 
budget deficit and to control the growth of domestic credit and money 
supply which fuel inflation, and to reduce price distortions in the 
economy. Equally important is the need to avoid frequent changes in 
policy initiatives, which have caused uncertainties and led to the view 
that the policy environment is unpredictable."

These policies, even if implemented, would do no more than tinker with 
the massive problems the country faces. The main reason for the lack of 
inward investment and the extension of credit lines is not the sanctions 
imposed by Western countries, which are mainly directed at individual 
government leaders, but the chronic economic instability and brutal 
political repression, which the SADC report ignores entirely.

There is also no news of any progress in the diplomatic efforts 
co-ordinated by President Mbeki to find a political solution through 
dialogue between government, opposition parties and civil society.

While COSATU and the Southern African Trade Union Co-ordination Council 
(SATUCC) have always recognised that the solution to these problems 
ultimately has to be the responsibility of the people of Zimbabwe 
themselves, we have repeatedly called for the SADC governments to take a 
much tougher line with the ZANU-PF government on the abuse of human 
rights and workers' rights in particular.

That call become more urgent by the day. All SADC countries are now 
being affected directly by the crisis, as they are hit by the waves of 
immigration from Zimbabwe.


COSATU seeking meeting with minister on police brutality against strikers

The Congress of South African Trade Unions strongly condemns the 
overreaction of the police in disputes involving our members.

At the Lonmin Platinum Mine in the North West police fired rubber 
bullets at a crowd of striking workers belonging to the National Union 
of Mineworkers on 21 August, after alleging that they were intimidating 
staff who were still working. In fact they were exercising their legal 
right to picket and persuade workers to join the strike. 10 000 NUM 
members were on strike in protest against non-payment of wages as a 
result of new computer software.

In the other incident police fired rubber bullets at 120 members of the 
Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) at Oranjerivier Wine Cellars in 
Upington. The union report that police did not even bother to follow 
procedure by issuing a warning for strikers to disperse before the 
captain pulled out a shotgun and provoked strikers and they let loose 
with rubber bullets and teargas.

The police also arrested approximately 60 people, including a FAWU 
official, though fortunately they were later released and have not as 
yet been charged.

COSATU endorses FAWU's plea to police officers to "stop abusing their 
power and ensure they have a clear understanding of events before they 
decide to pull out their guns". Such confrontations and unlawful arrests 
can be avoided if the police just take the trouble to thoroughly assess 
the situation before taking action and consult the union officials.

The COSATU 9th National Congress noted "the increasing incidents of 
malicious prosecution of striking workers which seems to be a tactic by 
the state to intimidate workers and unions and seek to tie them and 
their resources up in the courts".

The resolution reaffirmed that "peaceful and lawful demonstrations are 
acceptable, indeed necessary, for a democratic society" and that "the 
police have the right to prevent lawlessness, violent activities and 
damage to property takes place during demonstrations and to ensure 
compliance with the rule of law; but this does not mean banning 
demonstrations or using unnecessary force to break them up".

Congress resolved:

  1. To foster, promote and consolidate community policing during 
peaceful demonstrations.
  2. To ensure that the right of workers to demonstrate and picket is 
defended, and that the police are trained and equipped to deal with 
crowd control in a peaceful manner
  3. To continuously embark on an integrated programme of training and 
education within all the relevant structures on the role of the police 
within a democratic state.
  4. To develop a collaborative approach with law enforcement agencies 
to apprehend and expose acts of lawlessness during such demonstrations.
  5. To condemn with the strongest possible terms any form of police 
brutality during peaceful demonstrations, and to call upon the police 
top management to put effective measures and systems in place to ensure 
an immediate stop to unnecessarily violent police actions in these 
  6. To influence and encourage the state to formulate all-inclusive 
approach on the strategic direction of the security establishment.
  7. To encourage development of a well-resourced and inclusive 
proactive, effective, and inclusive policing approach.
  8. To campaign for the streamlining of all policing strategies and 
activities by all security agencies to ensure an efficient and effective 
collaborative approach to crime and criminality.
  9. To encourage and support a continuous campaign by the state for 
retrieving all unlicensed firearms and discourage possession of small 
calibre firearms. The state must manage and strictly control the issuing 
and control of firearms to private security agencies as well as 
monitoring the database and usage of such arms.
 10. To approach the Human Rights Commission for an enquiry into police 
brutality and malicious prosecution of workers on strike.
 11. To campaign for the democratisation of the process of applying for 
gatherings and marches, including removing the powers of municipalities 
to unilaterally withdraw the right of workers to gather or march in the 
course of a strike.
 12. We condemn the behaviour of the police by arresting leaders during 
marches by striking workers as this only creates chaos at such a 
critical time and therefore call for the dropping of all charges by the 
state against our leaders.
 13. Engagement government on new methods of crowd control
 14. Call on the police management and the police more general to 
ensure adherence to the Code of Good Practice on Police Conduct during 
pickets and strikes.
 15. To ensure that state institutions are not used to break the strike 
and picket lines.

The events at Lonmin and Oranjerivier, and other incidents during the 
public service strike for example, show how necessary this resolution 
was. The federation has been seeking a meeting with the Minister of 
Safety and Security to discuss ways of maintaining order without 
resorting to the use of such violent weapons as rubber bullets and stun 
grenades, and will continue to press for this meeting as a matter of 
extreme urgency.

The right to strike, demonstrate and picket are enshrined in South 
Africa's constitution and must never be undermined by brutal and 
arbitrary attacks by the police.

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