Zimbabwe: speaking out in Scotland

IssueSeptember 2008
News by Sarah Young

On July 15th, Zimbabwean trade unionist Mike Sozinyu spoke to a meeting hosted by Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, at the Scottish TUC offices in the city.

Mike is part of the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions and is active in building a trade union movement independent of the Zimbabwean government. He stressed the importance of hearing voices of solidarity from British workers, as these could not be ignored by Mugabe, who dismisses criticism from the UK government as mere ex-colonial interference.

Mike spoke out the present crisis, where the collapse of industry means that the country no longer produces basics like cooking oil and soap. A month’s wages buys no more than a few loaves of bread and the focus for most Zimbabweans is the task of trying to find the next meal. A consequence is that the unions have been severely weakened as a force for change. Unions were also affected by the shutting down of factories and the exodus of workers to neighbouring countries.

A critical supporter of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mike had concerns that the MDC’s economic programme would not serve workers’ interests. However, he saw support for the MDC as the only credible option for those wishing to stop the current catastrophe and remove Mugabe from power. Mike also expressed doubts that any parliamentary route to change was possible in the short or medium term and felt that other ways to force change would need to be created by the Zimbabwean people. As a leading member of the Zimbabwean Social Forum, he hoped a ZSF meeting later in the year would allow the voices of ordinary Zimbabweans to be heard. Routes to change would be found by the homeless, AIDS sufferers, the unemployed and the disabled.

Linet Sihle Ncube from Karibu African Women’s Group also spoke, describing the difficulties that Zimbabwean refugees face in Scotland. As a refugee, living in Glasgow, she detailed the housing and work issues all refugees face. As refugees are not entitled to work, it makes raising funds to send back to help families in Zimbabwe very problematic.

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