Zimbabwe: Smuggled DVD brings union protest beatings to light

This video reached me late last night via Ethan Zuckerman. At nearly ten minutes, it's longer than the other videos we've put up, but I strongly recommend you watch this.

It includes footage of the Zimbabwean police and security intelligence services breaking up a peaceful demonstration by members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Unions (ZCTU) on September 13th. The police repeatedly beat the demonstrators, who are calling for the provision of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for the treatment of HIV, a minimum wage, and stabilisation in the prices of certain basic commodities. The bulk of the video involves interviews with the ZCTU members describing the events of the day, and the actions of the police. Ethan and Rachel Rawlins have kindly provided a transcript.

When news of the beatings originally leaked out, trades unions in other countries strongly condemned Robert Mugabe's hardline approach with legitimate and peaceful demonstrations. Last week a court dismissed the police report on the incident, and postponed the trial of the ZCTU protestors until October 17th, to give the Criminal Investigation Department time to conduct a thorough investigation of the allegations of police torture. When footage of the protests was smuggled out of Zimbabwe on DVD to South Africa this week, it prompted the head of one of South Africa's labour unions to say that she would give President Thabo Mbeki a copy of the DVD of the beatings in a meeting with him on Friday.

More as and when it emerges…


  • Tendai Gwatidzo

    This is clearly unacceptable and I hope as more people with influence sees this, it will bring about change in the way police in Zimbabwe deal with citizens.Note that I say citizens and not demonstrators because as a Zimbabwean the way the police have always acted toward the general public has changed by a little since Zimbabwe’s independence. The white police (before 1980 )used the same responses to demonstrators and even had dogs and water hoses.

    There was little outcry to this around the world. The current police force descended from the same system. Some of the officers were in the former force as well.

    On another note- ZCTU- Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions is not simply a Trade Union. Remember that the current leader of the main opposition party came from ZCTU and he still wields considerable influence on them as a former Secretary General. The reference to giving the country back to “whites” refers to the unproportionaly large percentage of whites in the upper leadership of the opposition party.

    Everyone is near the breaking point right now in Zimbabwe. No food,no fuel, the highest inflation rate in the world, no electricity (the national airline has been grounded several times) Realistically, it’s a bit puzzling as to what the demonstrators (ZCTU members )expected – If this is close to what they expected to happen then it does prove thier point and works well to help stop police brutality in many countries-especially developing nations.

    I am not sure how I can expect a government that cannot afford to provide electricity, water, fuel, education, basic healthcare for the poor, to give me Anti-retroviral drugs. I think these are needed as much as cough medicine which is not available for free given the current economic conditions in Zimbabwe.

    Also, it’s interesting to note that the demonstrators did not carry any placads and there were only a handful of them.- Food for thought.

  • Anon Zimbabwean

    This is actually fairly restrained by the stanards of the Zimbabwean police. I remember watching the police break up a demonstration by the security guards union in 2000 from the top of a building on Samora Michael Ave. I was a peaceful demonstration, orderly rows of men holding hands and singing, perhaps 400 of them. Riot police showed up in army transportsand beat the living crap out of these guys with no provocation at all, they even drove one of the army transports through a shopping mall to pursue fleeing protestors.

  • […] _ Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Zimbabwe: Smuggled DVD brings union protest beatings to light This video reached me late last night via Ethan Zuckerman. At nearly ten minutes, it’s longer than the other videos we’ve put up, but I strongly recommend you watch this. […]

  • […] It makes sense for Zimbabweans to look towards Guinea – labor unions have been the source of most of Zimbabwe’s political change. The ZCTU (Zimbabwe Council of Trade Unions) is the main organization that seems to scare the Mugabe government, which helps explain why their protests are shut down so swiftly and violently. While doctors, nurses and electric company workers are on strike, much of Zimbabwean society seems to keep functioning. […]

  • […] You can post videos of the Star Wars kid on YouTube… but you can also post videos of Zimbabwean labor activists being beated by government thugs. Twitter lets Robert Scoble tell me what he’s doing 200 freaking times a day… but it […]

  • […] 13, 2006 in Human Rights [Originally published here as part of WITNESS’s collaboration with Global Voices […]

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