[Marxism] Cosatu statement on SADC/Zim; police brutality in South Africa
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".
1. To foster, promote and consolidate community policing during
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
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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