Solidarity with Zimbabwe workers

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Dozens of labor unionists and young progressives gathered outside the Zimbabwean embassy on July 21 to protest the illegitimate government of Robert Mugabe.

Speakers charged the regime with crimes against humanity for its acts of brutality against the people of Zimbabwe, including the use of food as a weapon by restricting access to aid.

Demonstrators also protested the destructive role of international financial institutions, which since the mid-1990s have pushed one of Africa's strongest economies to almost unimaginable collapse. By the most conservative measure, the rate of inflation within Zimbabwe now runs to hundreds of thousands of percent per year.

In spite of the sweltering heat of the nation's capitol, some 60 protesters turned out for the action, which was organized by TransAfrica Forum. It drew strong support from the local metropolitan council of the AFL-CIO--especially from the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, whose members, in their bright yellow T-shirts, were among the most visible and vocal participants.

The crowd also included members of the Service Employees International Union, Jobs with Justice, the International Socialist Organization and Students for a Democratic Society. A tiny counterdemonstration by supporters of Mugabe was briefly acknowledged with a round of boos--then ignored by protesters and the general public alike.

Slogans and speeches throughout the rally called for Mugabe to resign and a transitional government to take the reigns of power. During the country's recent elections, the ruling ZANU-PF party exercised so much violence against the population that the main opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change, withdrew from the June presidential run-off.

Protesters also demanded recognition of workers' rights, an audit of the country's debt and social investment to meet the needs of Zimbabwe's people.

Members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and other working-class organizations there should know that they have friends in Washington. Not "friends in high places," maybe--but friends, even so.