Cosatu denied entry into Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has barred Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) secretary general, Zwelinzima Vavi, from entering the country to attend the scheduled Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) congress set for Harare this weekend.

He was subsequently deported to his base in South Africa. Vavi was denied entry on Friday upon arrival at the Harare International Airport. An official with ZCTU, Mlamuleli Sibanda, alleged that the Attorney General’s office had instructed the immigration department not to allow Vavi to enter Zimbabwe. “We have been told by the immigration officials that they are following instructions from the AG’s office not to allow Vavi into the country. They said we could allow everyone else in but not the South African trade unionist,” The deportation of Vavi comes only a day after the expulsion of two other foreign trade unionists from Norway who had come to Zimbabwe to attend the same meeting. The trade unionists, Nina Mjoberg, a Norwegian and Alice Siame a Zambian trade unionist working as a consultant in Europe were ordered by Zimbabwean authorities to return to their base in Norway as their presence in the country was not welcome. The ZCTU, the country’s main labour body, says it is surprised by the government’s actions in denying entry to delegates of its congress. “So far the government has refused entry to two of our visitors. ZCTU is disappointed by the actions of the government and has been left with no option than to make an urgent court application that compels government to allow the visitors in,” reads part of a statement issued by the union on Wednesday. Nina Mjoberg was denied entry on arrival at the Harare International Airport while Siame was tracked down the following day. She was picked up by the police in the morning at her hotel and taken to the airport before she was whisked back to Switzerland Embassy where she had taken her passport for visa processing since she was to travel to the European country after the congress. At one time, the ZCTU which was preparing to mount a legal challenge to government actions did not know the whereabouts of their two guests. “The two were later on today deported and were put in a British Airways and South African Airways flights,” said Sibanda, a ZCTU spokesperson. The actions of the government come despites assurances by the labour ministry the union’s delegates were free to come and attend its meeting. Zimbabwe has in the past deported Cosatu officials, including Vavi, accusing them of being enemies of the state and a threat to the country’s security. However, Harare has allowed representatives from Denmark and England to attend the ZCTU congress despite its labelling of these two states as having ulterior motives against President Robert Mugabe’s administration. The relationship between ZCTU and Mugabe’s government soured when the country’s main labour body organized several mass demonstrations to press for better living and working conditions of the entire Zimbabwean workforce. ZCTU is presently putting pressure on the Mugabe administration to adjust workers salaries so that they tally with the ever nose-diving inflation. The month-on-month inflation figures for April have surged to 1042.9 percent, according to latest figures released by the Central Statistics Office.