Wednesday, July 19, 2006

American unions in solidarity with Zim Unions opposing Mugabe

The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) has launched a major campaign to clip Mugabe of his “liberator” image in the African American community by exposing the thuggish actions of his regime against the Zimbabwean people.

CBTU President William Lucy announced that CBTU would aggressively reach out to African American media, labor websites/blogs and other progressive media this summer to get Americans “tuned into the Zimbabwe crisis.” Lucy also said CBTU would join other organizations in demonstrations at the Zimbabwe Embassy and other locations.....
Lucy, who is also international secretary-treasurer of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said,“CBTU will not be a silent witness to this tragedy unfolding on distant soil liberated by heroic freedom fighters. Zimbabwe’s people, who are suffering crushing poverty, homelessness, hunger and rampant violations of human and trade union rights, need to know that their cries for help echo in our hearts, no less than those of our sisters and brothers in South Africa who prevailed over the racist apartheid regime.”

Lucy was one of the founders of the Free South Africa Movement in the 1980s, which conducted the most effective grassroots anti-apartheid campaign in the U.S. He was also instrumental in raising union revenue to finance Nelson Mandela’s historic trip to the U.S. in 1990.

In the 1960s Mugabe became an icon of the Zimbabwe nationalist movement that fought white-minority rule and won independence in 1979. However, his Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) party has tightened its autocratic grip on power as Mugabe’s support in urban areas has drastically waned. In 2002, he was reelected in a vote marked by government intimidation of the opposition, a crackdown on the free press, and charges of vote rigging.

Mugabe’s descent from icon to despot is wrenching for many black Americans. In the 1960s, a lot of black activists here gave money and claimed solidarity with Zimbabwe’s liberation fighters. Josh Williams, president of the Washington, D.C. central labor council, recently returned from a visit to Zimbabwe with a verdict on Mugabe’s leadership.

“He [Mugabe] has lost touch with the people,” Williams said. “In the past 10 years Mugabe has become a totally different person.” Williams, who represented the AFL-CIO at the 25th anniversary convention of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in May, said “Workers there [Zimbabwe] find it hard to accept that many of them are being beaten, arrested and harassed by the same people that they marched with 25 years ago for [Zimbabwe’s] liberation.”

Mugabe’s hand of repression greeted Williams when he arrived at the airport in Harare. “There were about 20 other labor organizations that sent representatives to the ZCTU convention,” Williams said. “But when we arrived at Zimbabwe’s airport, 11 delegates were denied admission and sent back home by the government, apparently because they had been critical of past actions taken by Mugabe.”

To squelch growing dissent from the displaced urban poor, the trade unions, and farmers whose lands have been confiscated by the military, Mugabe has virtually strangled democracy in Zimbabwe. ...

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