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AFT Resolutions

ZIMBABWE: POLITICAL, TRADE UNION AND HUMAN RIGHTS (Council)

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers is deeply alarmed over the continued deterioration of political, economic, social, human rights and labor rights in the Republic of Zimbabwe; and

WHEREAS, the Zimbabwe ruling party's dominant control and manipulation of the political process makes a travesty of the announced results of the presidential elections held March 29, 2008.; During the period leading to the election, widespread reports criticized the role of government security forces and militant groups associated with the ruling party in the brutal and systematic intimidation of opposition candidates, voters, election officials and the media.  After the election, during the uncertain period of counting and recounting the ballots, there continued a reign of violence and intimidation against opposition supporters and local election officials; and

WHEREAS, during the election, hundreds of Zimbabwean teachers, despite life-threatening intimidation to them and their families, served as polling station agents  and vote counters to help maintain election transparency.  Teachers later returned, in the face of even more severe threats, to take part in the ballot recount for the parliamentary elections—a recount that verified a victory for the opposition; and

WHEREAS, human rights groups worldwide have long criticized the Zimbabwe government’s abuses of human rights, which have increased significantly during recent years.  Police and security forces have acted with impunity, arbitrarily arresting and detaining labor leaders, journalists, peaceful protesters, religious leaders, and advocates for a democratic election process; and

WHEREAS, the savage police attack and torture in 2007 of the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai (the former secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions), rightfully brought the world’s condemnation down upon the regime of president Robert Mugabe; and

WHEREAS, salaries, particularly for teachers, healthcare workers and others in the public sector, lag far behind regional and international standards for a living wage.  In desperation, many of Zimbabwe’s most talented public servants are forced to seek work abroad, further impoverishing their home communities; and

WHEREAS, teachers work in an atmosphere that restricts academic freedom and that is subject to undue ruling party influence, intimidating faculty and students and destroying school property; and 

WHEREAS, child labor remains a major issue as thousands of students are held out of school by an exploitative system that forces children to work in unsafe mines, agricultural fields and dangerous city streets; and

WHEREAS, concerning workers’ rights, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has many times been called to investigate accusations that the Zimbabwean government is directly responsible for numerous labor violations, including the creation of government-sponsored shadow unions, freezing the payment of salaries, using unfair delaying tactics to hinder collective bargaining, and the chilling effect on trade union activity caused by constant monitoring by police, security forces and ruling party militias; and

WHEREAS, above all stands the government’s clear role in directing violence against trade union activists exercising their clear legal and political rights.  The government is directly implicated in workers’ arbitrary dismissals and transfers, as well as assault, kidnapping, torture and murder:

RESOLVED, that the AFT support the call for a peaceful resolution to the current election crisis, acceptance of the results of the election as expressed by the Zimbabwean people, and an immediate end to politically motivated intimidation and violence; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT stand in solidarity with labor unions in South Africa, Mozambique,  Angola and Namibia that have refused to deliver shipments of Chinese-manufactured arms to the government of Zimbabwe — weapons that can only inflame the political crisis;  and

RESOLVED, that the AFT acknowledge the courage of millions of Zimbabweans, who despite intimidation, turned out to vote on election day in an atmosphere that was relatively calm and free of violence; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT condemn the completely unwarranted brutality against Zimbabwe’s trade union movement, and speak forcefully to pressure Zimbabwe to respect internationally recognized workers’ rights; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT call for the immediate release of trade unionists and others arrested and imprisoned while exercising their rights of free speech, association and political belief;  and

RESOLVED, that the AFT support Zimbabweans who believe that the dignity of work, an end to discrimination, an end to forced labor, freedom of association, and the right of workers to be heard are not just labor rights, but human rights; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT work with Education International, Public Services International, international trade unions, and local Zimbabwean civil society organizations that share the values and objectives of promoting democracy, furthering workers’ rights, the rule of law and gender equality; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT support the right of all Zimbabwe’s children to a quality basic education, and oppose child labor and other exploitation of youth such as forced recruitment into politically motivated militant activities and sexual trafficking; and in their desire for a genuinely democratic and more prosperous future. (Executive Council 2008)


(2008)