THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), which of late has been accused of being captured by government, is facing fresh controversy after it summoned Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) president Obert Masaraure (pictured) to a disciplinary hearing over a charge of criticising President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration for presiding over worsening economic hardships among citizens.
Top human rights lawyer Douglas Coltart of Mtetwa and Nyambirai Legal Practioners, representing Masaraure, has since written to ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo protesting the scheduled disciplinary hearing.
On 22 July this year, the ZCTU suspended Masaraure on a charge of misconduct over statements he made on 1 May (Workers’ Day). Masaraure called for a general strike to push the government to pay salaries in United States dollars instead of the moribund Zimbabwe dollar.
The workers’ body invited Masaraure to a disciplinary hearing this past Wednesday.
However, in his letter to the ZCTU dated 14 December 2023, Coltart said the invitation was unprocedural.
Part of the letter reads: “We act on behalf of Obert Masaraure (hereinafter “our client”).
Please note our interest. We are advised by our client that he received a telephone call from one Irene on behalf of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on 13th December 2023 requesting him to appear for a disciplinary hearing on 14th December 2023 at 14:30 hours.
“We are further advised that, despite his request, our client has not been advised by yourselves what the charge against him is or what the allegations are which form the basis of that charge.”
Coltart outlined the documents that Masaraure ought to have been furnished by the ZCTU before the hearing could take place.
“Furthermore, we are advised that our client has not been furnished with any of the following: 1. A charge sheet; 2. A formal notice to attend the disciplinary proceedings; 3. Witness statements of those who are to testify against him at the hearing; 4. Copies of any evidence or exhibits which are to be used against him during the hearing; 5. A copy of the General Council resolution of 22 July 2023; 6. A copy of any General Council resolution referring this matter to a disciplinary hearing and appointing the disciplinary tribunal.
“Therefore, we kindly request to be furnished with the abovementioned documents and exhibits which shall be essential for him to prepare his defence,” reads the letter.
Coltart also highlighted that Masaraure could not attend the hearing which had been scheduled for Thursday this week.
“Given the fact that our client has not yet been provided with any of the documents necessary to ensure that his right to a fair hearing is duly respected, as well as the extremely short notice that has been provided to him for the hearing and the fact that we have only just received instructions in relation to this matter, we kindly request a postponement of the matter to a date mutually convenient to the parties after he has had an opportunity to study the documents requested and we have had an opportunity to take full instructions from our client. Your cooperation in this regard is most appreciated,” concludes the letter.
In June this year, the ZCTU was criticised by its affiliates for misleading the International Labour Organisation (ILO) at a meeting in Switzerland by telling the body that Zimbabwe no longer had a bad human rights record and had begun upholding freedoms of assembly and association.
The ZCTU’s claims resulted in Zimbabwe being struck off the list of 24 countries that were on the agenda for deliberations on their worsening situations.
The development triggered anger among affiliates of the ZCTU who called upon ZCTU president Florence Taruvinga and secretary-general Moyo to step down over what they described as betrayal of the workers’ struggle.
Before the dust could settle on that matter, the following month, in July 2023, the ZCTU leaders met Mnangagwa at State House amid criticism by the union’s affiliates of betraying the workers’ cause by hobnobbing with state officials.
The NewsHawks gathered that the secret meeting was facilitated by the then Labour minister Paul Mavima and was convened on 7 July, with the ZCTU represented by Taruvinga and Moyo.