News and Information
Zimbabwe kicks out SA unionists
|October 27, 2004
| Zimbabwe police have expelled a South African trade union mission for defying a ban to enter the country.
Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) officials say they had obtained a court order allowing them to stay until Wednesday afternoon.
But the government has described their trip to assess conditions in the country as "not acceptable".
The cabinet ordered their deportation after the group refused to guarantee not to meet with certain civic groups.
"We think that the attitude of the Zimbabwe government borders on criminality," a deported Cosatu official Simon Boshielo told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
Members of the 12-member delegation had been held under armed guard at Harare International Airport for much of Tuesday, following a cabinet decision to cut short their visit.
They are not a super-trade union. They're not a super-government
Zimbabwe government spokesperson
But after a row over who should pay for their tickets, police drove the group through the night to Beitbridge, the border post between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Speaking from Polokwane in northern South Africa, Mr Boshielo said police had initially told them were being taken to their hotel for the night.
"Suddenly we discovered during the course of the drive that we were being taken to the border."
"They dumped us at the bridge [between the countries]. And we organised our own trip from there," he said.
The Zimbabwe government has defended the decision to expel the unionists, saying Zimbabwe was not an extension of South Africa.
"Remember, Cosatu means Confederation of South African Trade Unions, not Confederation of Southern African Trade Unions," government spokesman George Charamba told South African state radio.
"They are not a super-trade union. They're not a super-government," he said.
The BBC's Alastair Leithead in Johannesburg says the action will cause embarrassment for the South African government.
South Africa's ruling African National Congress has an alliance with Cosatu and their policy has been one of quiet diplomacy, not being openly critical of President Robert Mugabe, our correspondent says.
Deportation proceedings began on Tuesday, after police raided the offices of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), where the delegation had been meeting.
Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven told news agency AFP the organisation was "appalled at the conduct of the Zimbabwe police".
The group had intended to assess the state of the country ahead of parliamentary elections in March next year.
Among the groups the mission had been told not to meet were the Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the National Constitutional Assembly, which the government view as politically linked to the opposition.
Tsvangirai is hoping African leaders will put more pressure on Zimbabwe
Delegation member Violet Seboni said they were proud of the fact that they had managed to see the ZCTU, in a meeting she described as "fruitful".
As a signatory to the International Labour Organisation convention, Ms Seboni said the Zimbabwe government was not respecting workers' rights.
Despite their deportation Ms Seboni said: "We are confident we have made a mark."
Meanwhile, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has called on countries in southern Africa to put pressure on President Mugabe to ensure the elections are free and fair.
Mr Tsvangirai made the comments in Mauritius, during a tour of the region to gather support for reform of Zimbabwe's electoral laws.
It is his first trip outside Zimbabwe for nearly three years, following the return of his passport after his acquittal on treason charges last week.
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