News and Information

Labour leaders slam Harare's 'Hitler tactics'
November 5, 2004
By Ed Stoddard

Johannesburg - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) launched a blistering attack on Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe on Friday, calling it a "derailed revolution" and comparing its tactics to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's.

The hard-hitting comments, published in the weekly Mail & Guardian newspaper, follow Zimbabwe's deportation last month of 13 unionists from the Cosatu team who had entered the country on a fact-finding mission.

They signal a widening rift between South Africa's ruling African National Congress and its left-wing alliance partners over Pretoria's policy of "quiet diplomacy" towards Zimbabwe, accused by critics of widespread human rights abuses.

"We will not keep mum when freedom does not lead to respect for workers and human rights," Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said in a commentary provocatively headlined "We are not quiet diplomats".

"Liberation must mean a decent life for all, not a selected few."

Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, are accused by the West of rigging elections, muzzling the press and ruining the economy by seizing white-owned farms for distribution to landless blacks.

"Recent events in Zimbabwe have opened up a debate in Cosatu as to whether that country does not now represent a typical example of a derailed revolution," Vavi wrote.

He also said Zimbabwe Information Minister Jonathan Moyo - who accused Cosatu of working on behalf of the British - had modelled his tactics on Hitler.

"Hitler, the master propagandist from whom Moyo must certainly have learned his tricks, believed in repeating a lie frequently enough until it settles as the truth in the minds of ordinary people," Vavi wrote.

The comments are sure to anger the ANC, which tolerates little dissent in its own ranks and insists that behind the scenes prodding is the only way to resolve Zimbabwe's political and economic quagmire.

Critics contend the ANC's Zimbabwe strategy shows it cannot bring itself to criticise an ally from the black liberation struggles against colonialism and white rule.

As Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF styles itself as a revolutionary party of the hard left, condemnation from a labour organisation is particularly stinging.

Vavi said Cosatu had a duty to support its trade union allies across the border and that only a mass movement would force Mugabe to change his ways - as was the case with the white-minority regimes of Zimbabwe and South Africa.

"We have called for an internal debate on how we should take forward this struggle," Vavi wrote.

"For this we need no permission from our government."


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