Police block Econet Wireless demo
A BID by the Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union (ZIBAWU) to stage a demonstration at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe headquarters failed after the police turned down the union’s application.
ZIBAWU had sought permission to demonstrate against Steward Bank at Econet Wireless’ headquarters in Msasa, Harare because the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed telecommunications firm owns the retail bank.
The protest was meant to put pressure on Steward Bank to pay retrenchment packages to its ex-employees whose contracts were terminated in July last year in terms of a Supreme Court ruling that allowed employers to sack their workers on three months’ notice.
ZIBAWU’s organising secretary, Tirivanhu Marimo, had written to the Zimbabwe Republic Police on March 24 seeking clearance for the demonstration, which they wanted to stage on April 15, 2016 from 0800hrs to 1700hrs.
“Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is the majority shareholder of Steward Bank and is responsible for the major decisions taken at Steward Bank. In July 2015, it caused terminations of employment contracts on notice for our 41 members who were employees of the bank. This action is meant to bring out to the public the plight of these 41 members who were employed by Steward Bank. It is hoped that the public will persuade Econet to consider the plight of these workers who have been suffering for a long time,” Marimo said in the letter.
But the police, in a letter dated March 29, 2016 signed by the officer commanding Harare Suburban District, turned down the application, arguing that Steward Bank was a legal entity that should fully represent its own interests without the involvement of its shareholders.
“Though it is your right to demonstrate in terms of Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, it should be borne in mind that Steward Bank is a legal entity on its own and is run by an independent management according to law. It can sue and be sued on its own,” argued the police in turning down the application.
The police warned that they would “not hesitate to invoke the provisions of Section 29 of the Public Order and Security Act should you choose to go ahead with the demonstration”.
“You are, however, advised to find another venue which does not interfere with the private business of Econet Wireless,” the police insisted.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions this week said it was unfortunate that the police continued to disrespect workers’ constitutional rights to freedom of association, expression and demonstration as provided for under Section 58 and 59 of the Constitution.
ZIBAWU is an affiliate of the ZCTU.
Zakeyo Mutimutema, a ZCTU legal adviser, said the union will not hesitate to report the police actions to the United Nations as part of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.
“We appeal to the police commissioner and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to ensure that trade union rights are respected. The negative publicity the country receives defeats the efforts being done by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor to lure investors,” he said.
The International Labour Organisation has over the years warned government against its failure to respect freedoms of association and protection and the right by trade unions to organise in terms of Convention 87 of 1948. By Alois Vinga
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