News and Information

Union's visit was political, says ambassador
November 4, 2004

November 04 2004 at 08:18AM

The deportation last week of a Cosatu delegation from Zimbabwe is unfortunate, but happened because the visit was politically motivated, the South African parliament's foreign affairs portfolio committee heard on Wednesday.

Briefing members, Zimbabwe's ambassador to South Africa, Simon Moyo, said Cosatu had been forewarned that its delegation's plans to meet "quasi-oppositional political organisations" were not acceptable.

The warning had come in the form of a letter - from Zimbabwe's ministry of public service, labour and social welfare in Harare - to Cosatu, sent on October 21, before the delegation's visit.

Moyo said the political nature of the visit by the 13-member delegation was confirmed by a planned meeting between Cosatu and Zanu-PF, Zimbabwe's ruling party, and between Cosatu and the Movement for Democratic Change, that country's opposition party.

The warning had come in the form of a letter - from Zimbabwe's ministry of public service
Cosatu had also planned meetings with the Crisis Coalition, National Constitutional Assembly, Zimbabwean Election Support Network, Zimbabwean Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwean Council of Churches and the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

These organisations were "all involved in the political discourse of Zimbabwe", Moyo said, quoting from the letter.

"These organisations are critical about the government of Zimbabwe, and indeed, most of these are quasi-oppositional political organisations."

Moyo said copies of the letter had also been sent to the ZCTU, South Africa's High Commission in Harare, South Africa's Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana, the cabinet and the department of foreign affairs.

Cosatu's defiance of the letter and its subsequent deportation from Zimbabwe was "unfortunate".

If the union had seen Mdladlana before their departure and asked how they should proceed "maybe things would have been, I think, more decent than what happened".

Moyo also said Cosatu had sent "shop stewards" and not its top leadership to Zimbabwe. "I thought that the Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi would have gone," he said.

ANC MP Rubben Mohlaloga attacked Cosatu during the briefing, saying the trade union's visit to Zimbabwe had been a "fishing expedition".

"This was nothing but a fishing expedition. They Cosatu wanted to come back with the title of heroism," he said.

# Jeremy Michaels reports that Cosatu president Willie Madisha has again slammed the government's criticism of the visit to Zimbabwe, saying Cosatu "is not a parastatal".

The cabinet issued a statement on Wednesday containing a veiled criticism of Cosatu's "fact-finding mission" to Zimbabwe last week, saying South Africans should "promote, rather than undermine" the preparations for parliamentary elections there in March next year".

The statement further said: "Government remains firmly convinced that these and other issues are best handled by Zimbabweans themselves, and that our role in SADC is to lend a hand."

But Madisha said Cosatu would not seek permission from the government to visit any country, including Zimbabwe.

"We are not a parastatal where you have to go to government and ask for permission. We are not going to seek permission from anyone," he said.


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