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Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions

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ZCTU|has most members in different sectors of industry in Zimbabwe. It is in fact the country's biggest worker representative movement. It has special interests in labour activism and this has resulted in it being linked to opposition political parties particularly the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai. The movement has also produced politicians of diverse interests in the Zimbabwean political landscape


The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions was formed on 28 February 1981.[1] The union was formed as part of the country's rebuilding program which saw most institutions and government departments being Aficanised with the need for removing the racist white ideologies. Soon after independence, there were six national trade unions in Zimbabwe and these were African Trade Union Congress(ACTU),the National African Trade Union Congress(NACTU),the Trade Union Congress of Zimbabwe(TUCZ),the United Trade Unions of Zimbabwe(UTUZ),the Zimbabwe Federation of Labour(ZFL) and the Zimbabwe Trade Union Congress(ZTUC).[1] These were then merged as part of the restructuring process to come up with a unified national trade union movement- the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions which was formed in 1981.[1]

Mission Statement

To promote, advance and safeguard the economic, social and constitutional freedoms of workers by securing legal, political, democratic and good governance framework in Zimbabwe through strengthening its capacity and independence and those of its affiliates.[2]

Aims and Objectives

  • To organize, develop and maintain a powerful, effective, democratic independent and united trade union movement in Zimbabwe.
  • To promote, safeguard and win trade union rights and privileges; to generally strive for the improvement of *working conditions and employment benefits for all workers in Zimbabwe and to secure full recognition and advancement of the rights, interests and dignity of labour.
  • To protect and advance full social and economic rights and development of all workers in Zimbabwe within and beyond the trade unions, particularly those of vulnerable groups such as women and children.

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  • To protect and defend workers against all forms of discrimination, exploitation and abuse.
  • To advance educational, political and economic knowledge within trade unions in order to build their capacity to effectively defend their interests.[2]

Development of ZCTU

With the euphoria for an independent Zimbabwe still fresh in the atmosphere, most of the early leaders of the movement were sympathetic to the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) party.[1] Thus, during the first 5 years of independence, the relationship between ZANU (PF) and by extension, government and the ZCTU was largely paternalistic. It was only after the collapse of the then executive of the ZCTU, and its second Congress held in 1985 that a more independent leadership, largely drawn from the larger and more professionally run unions that the relationship between the ruling party and the ZCTU was reduced to arms-length.

Anti Government Stance

After a new crop of leaders were elected into office in 1985, the rift between the government and the ZCTU began to widen. The divide between the ZCTU and government widened when the former opposed attempts by the latter to introduce a one-party state in Zimbabwe in the late 1980s following the merger between the two parties, ZANU (PF) and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) in 1987 after the signing of the Unity Accord on 22 December 1987.[1]

The relations between ZCTU and the government further worsened in 1991 when the former adopted the Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP).[1] The program resulted in decline of workers welfare services, reduction in salaries, decline of the public sector, retrenchments by major parastatals and government ministries, and the rise of prices of basic goods such as bread and fuel. As issues of governance deteriorated, the ZCTU increasingly became the torch bearer for alternative governance. The year 1997 marked the turning point in the political development of Zimbabwe.[1] A record of 231 national and industrial strikes took place. Other civic organizations joined the ZCTU in decrying the deteriorating economic conditions and the marginalization of civic society through ESAP. The war veterans in particular under their body; the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association organized raucous.[1]

ZCTU and the Formation of MDC

In 1999, the ZCTU began to speak of the need for an alternative government t o replace the Robert Mugabe led government which was accused of driving the country into poverty and under development.[1] Together with 40 other civil society groups, the ZCTU spearheaded the formation of an alternative party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), whose top leadership came from the labour movement. The ZCTU played a key role in changing the political landscape of Zimbabwe in a bid to influence a radical policy shift with a pro worker stance. This movement thus culminated in the formation of the opposition political party, the Movement for democratic Change on 9 September 1999, at Rufaro Stadium in Harare.[1]

The ZCTU has continued to maintain relations with the MDC-T faction led by Tsvangirai. In 2014, the movement vowed to continue its support for Tsvangirai inn his bid to re-assert the welfare of the ordinary workers in the country. Tsvangirai was meant to embark on an anti-government demonstrations and the ZCTU was on the forefront of backing the idea.[3] After the controversial harmonised elections held on the 31st of July in 2013, ZCTU sang the same chorus with the MDC when it rejected the outcome of the elections arguing that they were not free and fair.[4] In most workers day celebrations organised by ZCTU, Morgan Tsvangirai is invited as the guest of honour and this testifies the continued cordial relations between the MDC and the union.

Presidents Since 1981

  • Alfred Makwarimba

1981-1985 He was elected as the first president of ZCTU at its inauguration in Harare, in 1981, having the interim chairman of the Zimbabwe Trade Union Council.

  • Jeffery Mutandare

1985-1990 The late Jeffery Mutandare, was elected as president at the ZCTU Congress held at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare in 1985. At the time of his election, he was president of the Associated Mine Workers Union.

  • Gibson Sibanda

1990- 2000 In 1990, Gibson Sibanda was elected as the president of the ZCTU. Before his election, he was he president of the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railwaymen’s Union.

  • Lovemore Matombo

2001- to date Lovemore Matombo, from the Communications and Allied Services Workers Union of Zimbabwe. He was elected as the president in 2001 at the ZCTU Congress in Masvingo.

Secretary Generals Since 1981

  • 1981-1985 Albert Mugabe
  • 1985-1986- Anselm Chitewe
  • 1988-2000 Morgan Tsvangirai
  • 2000-2001 Isdore Zindoga
  • 2001- 2011 Wellington Chibebe
  • 2011- Japhet Moyo.[5]


Between 1998 and 2002, ZCTU was responsible for organising some of the most vibrant strikes which hook government.[1] In the same year, the movement also managed to engage government and took part in the tri partite negotiations which were meant to address the plight of the worker in general. Through these negotiations, the ZCTU got some tax concession for workers as relief for the hardships. However these gains were short lived as inflation continued to mount.[1] ZCTU, together with 40 other civic society groups organized to “working People’s Convention” towards the end of February 1999 at which they agreed to form a broad-based movement to fight for political change. The new movement was mandated with promoting labour issues and bringing to the fore those issues which the current government had failed to promote. A number of labour leaders and trade union activists were then tasked with mobilizing the masses to embark on a national sensitisation campaign to drum up support for the new movement.[1]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 , History,publisher, published:,retrieved:"
  2. 2.0 2.1 , Aims And Objectives,ZCTU Website,retrieved:30 Dec 2014"
  3. , ZCTU TO JOIN TSVANGIRAI DEMOS,NewsdzeZimbabwe, published:22 Sep 2014,retrieved:30 Dedc 2014"
  4. J. Moyo, SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE CONGRESS OF TRADE UNIONS (ZCTU) STATEMENT ON HARMONISED ELECTIONS OF 31 JULY 2013,Nehanda Radio, published:6 Aug 2013,retrieved:30 Dec 2014"
  5. , Secretaries,ZCTU, retrieved:30 Dec 2014"