On 14th June 2022, the President of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), Comrade Obert Masaraure, was arrested and accused of the murder of Roy Issa as the teachers of Zimbabwe embarked on a job action due to salaries well below the Poverty Datum Line. 3 weeks later, the Secretary-General of ARTUZ, Comrade Robson Chere, was arrested on related charges.
But Roy Issa had died on the 2nd June 2016!
Witnesses had seen him fall from a 7th floor hotel window when drunk. A full inquest had determined suicide. And it seemed that the case was closed.
Prosecutors now say that Masaraure “and his accomplices still at large” beat Issa to death in the street below in the early hours of 2nd June 2016 and will call eight state witnesses. Comrade Obert’s lawyer Doug Coltart has stated:
“The investigation into this case is something of a witch-hunt where the police are not investigating in an impartial manner seeking the truth on what really transpired but... rather appear to be on a mission to frame the accused person with no evidence.”
Coltart revealed that the prosecution’s star witness was a woman named Samantha Lauti, who was allegedly detained “for an entire day” by the police and “forced to state that it was Masaraure who killed Issa.”
The National Prosecuting Authority alleges that Masaraure, Issa and friends were drinking alcohol at the Quill Club located in the Ambassador Hotel, leaving at about 10.30pm on 1st June 2016 to go to the Jameson Hotel where Masaraure had a room booked on the 7th floor. The group allegedly continued drinking into the early hours of the next day “until a misunderstanding arose amongst them.”
“The accused [Masaraure] and his accomplices ganged up against Roy Issa and assaulted him on the head with unknown weapons along Park Street adjacent to Jameson Hotel. In order to conceal the offence, they misrepresented that Issa jumped off through the window which resulted in his death.”
The prosecution says a pathologist concluded that Issa died as a result of “brain damage, compound skull fracture and head trauma” before recommending that “police to investigate.”
Coltart stated that the charges were fabricated, insisting that Masaraure was nowhere near the Jameson Hotel at the time of the incident.
“When we are finished, you will see that this is a classic case of trumped-up charges. The police have been constantly changing the allegations against Masaraure in order to come up with a narrative that will specifically pin him.
“Initially, there were allegations that Masaraure pushed Issa out of the window at the Jameson Hotel. He was detained on a detention order on those allegations. All of a sudden, all the allegations have changed, new allegations were fabricated to say that Masaraure assaulted Issa to death along Park Street in the early hours of 2nd June 2016.
“Masaraure answered to that in a warned and cautioned statement, giving his alibi that he was not at the scene but at home with his wife.
“Seeing the challenge that indeed Masaraure was not present at the scene at that given time, allegations were changed again to say the deceased was assaulted at 10:30pm.
“Furthermore, the prosecution has not been candid with the court because they did disclose that there was an inquest into this case conducted by the police, at the conclusion of which foul play was ruled out.
“We have been denied access to that inquest report which is a public document. Efforts were made to obtain that report from the clerk of court and it appears that it is missing.”
“We pray that the inquest report be immediately put before this court and a copy be provided to the defence. We pray that the controller at Harare Central Police Station be directed to produce before this court a copy of the detention order of 14th June 2022 for it to be inspected by this court and that all the allegations be thoroughly investigated by the independent section of the police and a report be made to this court.”
Obert Masaraure was eventually given bail by the High Court in Harare on Wednesday 29th June 2022. ARTUZ Secretary-General Comrade Robson Chere was then arrested on similar charges around the same case on 5th July 2022. On 8th July 2022, Obert Masaraure was re-arrested for a letter he wrote following the arrest of Robson Chere. It was alleged that he was breaking bail conditions.
What is the fear that the Zimbabwe government has of ARTUZ?
The trade union movement, which in the 1950s played the major role in the formation of the national liberation movement and subsequent armed struggle against the white-racist settler regime of Rhodesia has become divided and flaccid.
One section of the trade union movement has become compliant with government. Since the late 1990s, the ZANU(PF) government has shown a militantly anti-imperialist face to the outside world while at the same time, internally, the elite has embarked on shameless looting, the building of mansions and conspicuous consumption. The Zimbabwe Communist Party (ZCP) has characterised this stratum as the ‘parasitic black bourgeoisie’ or simply, the ‘looting class’.
The other, larger section of the trade union movement has fallen into the trap of liberalism, with a ‘Human Rights’ rather than a class agenda; most of those trade unions behave like NGOs, organisations to be visited when workers are in problems rather than organic organisations of the workers themselves. Typically the union leadership is reliant on outside funding and is more interested in supporting the western-backed opposition than in the daily class struggles of the workers.
ZANU(PF) has for a long time, and with justification, been able to accuse the main opposition and the trade unions associated with it, of “being in the pockets of the imperialists”.
ARTUZ, led by working teachers is a different kind of trade union. The leaders are working teachers, and the union is passionate not only about remuneration, but also about the profession itself, about teaching and education. Among its leaders, including those arrested, are members of the Zimbabwe Communist Party founded in 2017.
Zimbabwe has been progressively de-industrialised since the adoption of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme of 1991. Most of the skilled workforce has left the country, especially to South Africa. The most militant trade unions are now in the public sector which is grossly underpaid. ARTUZ is in the lead and workers in other sections are taking note.
The looting class, now in the driving seat. is concerned about the growth of a class-oriented trade union movement and is trying very hard to do all it can to destroy it before it can become stronger.