About ZCTU

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.

Aims and Objectives

The aims and objectives of the Congress are:

  1. To organize, develop and maintain a powerful, effective, democratic independent and united trade union movement in Zimbabwe.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. To protect and defend workers against all forms of discrimination, exploitation and abuse.
  5. To advance educational, political and economic knowledge within trade unions in order to build their capacity to effectively defend their interests.
  6. To discourage and oppose the formation of splinter trade unions in Zimbabwe, or any other forms of worker disunity.
  7. To strive for the achievement of the highest possible percentage of membership and achievement of compulsory check off of trade union levies and dues in Zimbabwe.
  8. To develop and maintain a national labour information centre to assist trade unions and workers on all matters of trade union organization, administration, employment, legislation and other relevant matters.
  9. To formulate, effect and ensure the observance and implementation of Congress Policies by its affiliates.
  10. To work to ensure that the member unions are run on common guidelines and thus create, through mutual solidarity between the unions and between the members at each place of work. Unity and strength in the work of promoting and coordinating the trade union, financial and cultural interests of employees.
  11. To provide mediation for the resolution of disputes within, between or among member trade unions when specifically delegated to do so by its affiliates and/or by the General Council.
  12. To act as a channel of communication for the labour movement and cooperate wherever possible with Government, cooperatives, progressive organizations and any employers’ organization on matters of mutual concern or interest.
  13. To represent the Zimbabwe labour movement in international fora and to promote friendship, cooperation, solidarity and fraternal understanding with other trade union movements, progressive institutions and mass organizations whose aims and principles coincide with those of the Congress.


Historical Background

The Trade Union movement in Zimbabwe dates back to the period of colonialism (1890) and the establishment of capitalist relations of productions. The central role played by capitalism in the colonialisation of the country, and the creation of a capitalist mode of production in Zimbabwe did underlie the privilege role capitalism was able to carve out for itself in the country. The British South Africa (BSA) Company, under the Cecil John Rhodes, came to Zimbabwe in search of a second gold rand, following the extensive discovery and exploitation of the mineral in South Africa. The country only became a British colony in 1923, after 33years of company rule.

During the initial phase of colonization, the focus of economic policy was on the mining sector. The settlers had been inspired to move to the north of the Limpopo river in the hope of finding a second Gold Rand. When it became clear the expected huge gold deposits were not there, the value of BSA Company’s shares on the London Stock Exchange collapsed. As away of minimizing the loss, the BSA Company shifted its attention from mining towards agriculture.

Faced with serious labour shortages, the colonial regime resorted to coercive ways of recruiting labour.At first, taxes were introduced as a means force locals into wage employment. Hut and poll taxes were introduced in 1894.However, the tax instrument failed to ensure a steady flow of labour. Since taxes could be paid in kind, locals resorted to this method of payment. In addition, they sold their produce to raise the money required by the tax authorities. Faced with low wages and poor working conditions, workers responded by deserting their employers. Worried by the resistance of locals to wage employment, employers had to recruit from other countries such as Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique and even as far as Ethiopia.

To create a stable workforce, additional measures were taken in the form of Masters and Servants Ordinance of 1901, which made it a criminal offence to break a labour contact. In addition, Pass Laws were passed in 1904 to limit the movement of workers as well as to helping enforcing employment contracts. The laws effectively put workers under the control of their employers. When it became clear that the measures were inadequate, more brutal instruments were used, notably, the land expropriation. Although various pieces of legislation were enacted to deprive Africans their right to land, the most far reaching were the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 and the Land Tenure Act of 1969.

These measures were meant to deprive the blacks of their sole source of livelihood; land, and make them dependent on wage employment. In addition the separation of the husband from the rest of the family was calculated to keep wages low .The Industrial Conciliation Act (ICA) of 1934 legalised the formation of white trade unions while making black unions illegal. This meant the black workers were still governed by the Masters and Servant Ordinance of 1901.The Act had also effect of barring blacks from skilled jobs as they could not take up apprenticeships. The Act made provisions for the setting of wages for white employees, while those for blacks were left to the whims of the employer.

Following unrest emanating from widespread poverty, the Howman Commission was appointed in 1944.The commission found that blacks were generally very angry with the way they being treated. It recommended the establishment of a wage board for black workers and the need to pay a wage that was sufficient to meet the needs of the family and not a single person. Failure to address the issues culminated in the 1948 general strike which started in Bulawayo.The striking workers agreed to go back to work following promises by government t establish National Native Labour Board. The Board published Labour Regulations in January 1949, which recommended the introduction of a minimum wage, job grading and measures to improve urban housing.

The strike had a long impact. In an address to the Legislative Assembly, The then Prime Minister, Sir Godfrey Huggins observed that:” We are witnessing the emergency of a proletariat and in this country it happens to be black. They are demanding a place under the sun and we have to face up to it. Notwithstanding such a forward-looking approach, the Hudson Commission which was appointed to examine the causes of the 1948 general strike came up with measures to tighten control over workers. As a result, the Subversive Activities Act of 1950 was passed. The Act gave the State powers to arrest and detain workers’ leaders and to control strikes.

Realizing the futility of suppressing the growth of trade unionism, government amended the Industrial Conciliation Act in 1959. The Act legalized the formation of trade unions, albeit under strict conditions. Trade unions could only be registered if they were representative, non-political, financially healthy and with the consent of the employer.

Under this Act, three categories of workers were recognized, namely the skilled, who were whites, semi-skilled who were coloureds and the unskilled, who were blacks. In this way, the Act maintained the segmentation of the labour market along racial lines.

Under the Act, trade union funds were not to be used for political purposes, trade unionists were denied the rights to affiliate with any political party or political organisation. People arrested under the Unlawful Organizations (political parties) Act could not hold posts in trade unions, donations from outside organizations had to be approved by the Minister of Labour and the right to strike was denied. Under such onerous conditions, few black trade unions bothered to register such that by 1960, only two were registered.

However, inspite of the existence of such draconian laws, trade unions played an active role in the nationalist struggles of the 1950s and 1960s.In any event; it was not easy to separate trade unionism and political activism. Because of the thin line separating the two, trade unionists were incarcerated during the 1960s and 1970s.

The impediments faced by trade unionists during the colonial era were as follows:


      -police harassment (there were 68 unionists in detention in 1973);

      -absence of continuity in leadership due to harassment;

      -the privilege but divisive status of the white labour aristocracy;

      -the creation and presence of an industrial reserve army to pull down wage costs;

       -internal power struggle in unions;

       -and financial problems due to an erratic and optional check off system.

At the time of independence in 1980,there was as many as 6 national trade union centres, namely the 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).The first historic after independence was the bringing together of the 52 existing unions to a congress on February 28,1981 where the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was formed.

At this congress, unionists that were closely associated with the ruling party, ZANU (PF) took over the reigns of the labour movement. 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 runs unions that the relationship between the ruling party and the ZCTU was reduced to arms-length.

Thereafter, the ZCTU steered a more independent and increasingly confrontational position. 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 ZAPU in 1987.The relationship was further strained following the introduction of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) in 1991. As the hardships arising from the market-based reforms deepened, government increasingly resorted to draconian measures to shore up its waning political support. As issues of governance deteriorated, the ZCTU increasingly became the torch bearer for alternative governance.

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.

ZCTU Leadership through the years

1981 ZCTU First Executive

President: Alfred Makwarimba (CWU)

1St Vice-President : Abisha Kupfuma (ZCHWU)

3RD Vice-President: Mkushi Khumalo

Secretary General : Albert Mugabe (TGWU)

1ST Assistant Sec General : Dickson Ndawana (ZAPWU)

2nd Assistant Sec General : Ishmael Nedziwe (UFAWU)

Treasurer : Anderson Mhungu (RAWU)

Trustees : Brian Holleran (NUR) and Ricky Baleni

1985 ZCTU Executive

President : Jeffery Mutandare (AMWUZ)

1st Vice- President : Lovemore Matombo (ZPTWU)

2nd Vice- President : Jerry Jaricha (ZUCWU)

3rd Vice-President : Edward Njekesa

Secretary- General : Anselm Chitehwe (ZISBO)

1ST Assistant Sec General : Ishmael Nedziwe (UFAWU)

2nd Assistant Sec General : Nicholas Mudzengerere (ZCHWU)

Treasurer : Enock Gwayagwaya (ZCHWU)

Trustees : Brian Holleran (NUR) and C.Chiswa (CWUZ)

1988 ZCTU Executive

President : Jeffery Mutandare (AMWUZ)

1st Vice-President : Gibson Sibanda (RAWU)

2nd Vice-President : Florence Chitauro (ZUCWU)

3rd Vice-President : Isaac Matongo (NEWU)

Secretary –General : Morgan Tsvangirai (AMWUZ)

1st Assistant Secretary General : Nicholas Mudzengerere (ZCHWU)

2nd Assistant Secretary General : Enos Mdlongwa (NUCI)

Treasurer : Enock Gwayagwaya (ZCHWU)

Trustees : Edward Njekesa (CAWU) and Farai Makanda (TGWU)


1990 ZCTU Executive

President : Gibson Sibanda (ZARU)

1st Vice president : Edward Njekesa (CAWU)

2nd Vice President : Isaac Matongo (NEWU)

Vice –3rd President : Shangwa Chifamba (CWU)

Secretary General : Morgan Tsvangirai (AMWUZ)

1st Assistant Secretary General : Nicholas Mudzengerere (ZCHWU)

2nd Secretary General : Enos Mdhlongwa (NUCI)

Treasurer : Enock Gwayagwaya (ZCHWU)

Trustees : Lyson Mlambo (UCWUZ), Lodrik Mapfumo (ZISBO) (1990-1993) and Collin Gwiyo (ZISBO) (1993-1995)

1995 ZCTU Executive

President : Gibson Sibanda (ZARU)

1st Vice –President : Isaac Matongo (ZARU)

2nd Vice President : Shangwa Chifamba (CWUZ)

3rd Vice President : Enna Chitsa (ZCHWU)

Secretary General : Morgan Tsvangirai (ZCTU)

1st Assistant Secretary General : Isdore Zindoga (ZLSWU)

2nd Assistant Secretary General : Nicholas Mudzengerrere (ZCHWU)

Treasurer : Enock Gwayagwaya (ZCHWU)

Trustees : Enos Mdlongwa (NUCI) and Charles Gumbo (ZCWU)

20​00-2001 ZCTU Executive

Acting President : Isaac Matongo (NEWU)

Acting Secretary General : Isidore Zindoga (ZLSAWU)

2001 ZCTU Executive

President : Lovemore Matombo (CASWUZ)

1st Vice President : Lucia Matibenga (CWUZ)

2nd Vice President : Elias Mlotshwa (NUCI)

3rd Vice President : Edmund Ruzive (AMWUZ)

Secretary General : Wellington Chibebe (RAE)

1st Assistant Sec General : Collin Gwiyo (ZIBAWU)

2nd Assistant Sec General : Miriam Mukutuma (ISWUZ)

Treasurer : Matilda Chokuda (ZIBAWU)

Trustees : Enos Mdhlongwa (NUCI),  Charles Gumbo (ZCWU), Ndamera (ZEWU) and Lyson Mlambo (ZUCWU)

2006 ZCTU Executive

President : Lovemore Matombo (CASWUZ)

1st Vice President : Lucia Matibenga (CWUZ)

2nd Vice President : George Nkiwane (ZEWU) 

3rd Vice President : Tabitha Khumalo (ZESSCWU

Secretary General : Wellington Chibebe (RAE)

1st Assistant Sec General : Japhet Moyo (NEWU)

2nd Assistant Sec General : Gideon Shoko (ZARWU)

Treasurer : Estevao khumbulani (ZTIWU)  - Blessings Mujuru (ZIBAWU)

Trustees : Lilian Mboto (CASWUZ) Chivandire (CWUZ) 

2011 ZCTU Executive

President : George Nkiwane (ZEWU)

1st Vice President : Sithokozile Siwela (RAU)

2nd Vice President : Rwatipedza Chigwagwa (ZFTATU)

3rd Vice President : Lucia Matibenga (CWUZ) / 2012 Peter Mutasa (ZIBAWU)

Secretary General : Japhet moyo (NEWU)

1st Assistant Sec General : Gideon Shoko (ZARWU)

2nd Assistant Sec General : Dickson unganai Tarusenga (FFAWUZ)

Treasurer : Enock Mahari (ZCHWU)

Trustees : Mhangarai Chikove (ZCATWU),  Chivandire (CWUZ), 


President : Peter Mutasa (ZIBAWU)

1st Vice President : Florence Taruvinga  (ESWUZ)

2nd Vice President : John Chirenda  (ZIMRATU)

3rd Vice President : Juniel Manyere  (RAE)

Secretary General : Japhet Moyo 

1st Assistant Sec General : Sylvester Mutindindi (ZESSCWU)

2nd Assistant Sec General : Thomas Masvingwe (NEWUZ)

Treasurer : Lovemore Ngwarati (ZIMRATU)


Trustees : Reason Ngwenya (ZCPAWU),  Nyasha Benza (NUMAIZ) Rwatipedza Chigwagwa (ZFTATU)

 2021 ZCTU Executive

President : Florence Taruvinga (ESWUZ)

1st Vice President : Valetine Chikosi (ZIMRATU)

2nd Vice President : Nicholas Mazrura (ZCATWU)

3rd Vice President : Runesu Chipamaunga (RAE)

Secretary General : Japhet Moyo

1st Assistant Sec General : Runesu Dzimiri (FFAWUZ)

2nd Assistant Sec General : Kudakwashe Munengiwa (ZUCWU)

Treasurer : Douglas Chiradza  (NEWUZ)

Trustees : Lovemore Ngwarati  (ZIMRATU),  Juniel Manyere (RAE), Felistas Nyamunda (ZCHWU) 


While in the half of the 1980s ZCTU experienced what were mainly internal problems, by the end of the 1980s, its problems were emanating mainly from outside the labour movement.

To begin with, from 1985, the labour body followed a more independent path, which created some friction with the government. However, the plans threat emerged when the ZCTU opposed plans by the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) to impose a one party state system in the country following its merger with the then main opposition party, the Zimbabwe Africa People’s Union (ZAPU) in 1987.The relationship was further strained following the implementation of Economic Structural Adjustment Programme in 1991.


The year 1997 marked the turning point in the political development of Zimbabwe. 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 organized raucous.



This movement culminated in the formation of the opposition political party, the Movement for democratic Change on 9 September 1999, at Rufaro Stadium in Harare. At the same time, there was agitation for the drafting of a new constitution for the country.  A crusade was led by the National constitutional Assembly, (NCA) which was arguing that the Lancaster House constitution was not home grown.  The government then drafted a proposed new Constitution without involving stakeholders who had raised the issue in the first place. It also resolved to put the proposed constitution to national referendum.


 To shore up its fading support ahead the referendum government decided to award its workers wage increases amounting to 69-90 percent in January 200.  Again, there was no provision for such expenditure in the national budget; implying government had to borrow to finance this expenditure line.  The immediate impact of these unbudgeted for expenditures was to raise the budget deficit from 4.8 percent of GDP in 1997/98 to 23,5% by the end of the year 2000.  The targeted budget deficit for 2000 was 3.8 percent of GDP.

Things took a turn for the worst when the Government-drafted new Constitution was rejected at the referendum held on 12 -13 February 2000.  Following the referendum, government supported land invasion by war veterans.  This marked the begging of the controversial land grab and fast track land resettlement programme.  The land grab policy followed accusations by the government that white farmers had provided transport for their workers to vote in referendum.

Clearly therefore, the land invasion were primarily designed to cut off support of the newly established opposition political party, the MDC from the farming community.  Most unfortunately, an estimated 150 000 farm workers lost their jobs during fast-track programme. The breakdown in the rule of law particularly intensified during the period running up to and after the June 2000 Parliamentary elections.  Against this background, the relationship between the government and its development partners deteriorated such that Zimbabwe earned itself a high-risk profile and pariah status, resulting in the international community smart sanctions.


Against the backdrop of the rule of law and anti-western rhetoric, the relationship between Zimbabwe and the powerful western economies had reached unprecedented low levels.  Donors deserted the country, resulting in an acute shortage of foreign currency.  This has also resulted in the emergence of a thriving parallel market, which has now become the only port of call for foreign currency seekers.

Since 1997, economic indicators have demonstrations against the government.  Realizing that the threats form the mobilized war veterans were too serious to ignore, President, Robert Mugabe reached a settlement with the war veterans in December 1997.

Through this agreement, each of the estimated 50 000 war veterans was to receive a one of gratuity payment of Z$50 000 and a monthly payment of Z$2000 beginning January 1998.  The settlement amounted to Z$4 billion which had not been budgeted for.  To raise this amount government sought to introduce a War Veteran Levy, which the ZCTU opposed.  This led to the attempted assassination of the then ZCTU Secretary General Morgan Tsvangirai at his offices in Harare, two days after he had led a highly successful national demonstration against the proposed levy, arguing that worker were already paying several levies.


In August 1998, the government sent tropes to the Democratic Republic of Congo to prop up the government of Laurent Kabila at a great cost to the nation.  Again, ZCTU was opposed to this expedition, especially given that the costs had not been budgeted for.  Towards the end of 1998, the workers became unbearable, resulting in the ZCTU organizing stay-aways in protest.

In September 1998, tripartite negotiations were initiated to deal with the issues ZCTU had raised.  A new negotiating structure, the Tripartite Negotiating Forum, (TNF) was born.  Though it, the ZCTU got some tax concession for workers as relief for the hardships.  However these gains were short lived as inflation continued to mount.


Realizing that the crisis was deepening, and that it was largely emanating from the issues of governance, the 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 sensitization campaign to drum up support for the new movement.

Had downward trend, where 86 percent of Zimbabweans are now living below the Poverty Datum Line (PDL).Inflation, as of mid-March 2006 was pegged at 914 percent.  The purchasing power of the 1995 dollar has collapsed to below 2 cent, implying that, what two cents could buy in 1995 is what one dollar buys today.  Industry which used to account for 26 percent of GDP, now accounts for only less than 15 percent.  Unemployment is estimated at over 70 percent of the labour force.

The ZCTU, which at present had 36 affiliates, has been adversely affected by the crisis.  Trade union rights have been undermined and abused through various ways.  Firstly, trade union leaders could no longer visit their members on farms following farm invasions.  Given that the agricultural sector is the largest employing sector in the economy, accounting for the third of formal sector employment, this means the labour movement had been cut off from its biggest sector.  As a result, trade union membership declined form almost 200 000 in 1999 to 143 as at October 2002.

Secondly, as a way of undermining the ZCTU, government registered another federation, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) as a rival centre.  The membership of the ZFTU is not known.  However through state patronage, it worked on destabilization of the ZCTU affiliates.  Splinter unions have sprouted in recent years. In April 2001, war veterans invaded factories, to ostensibly resolve labour disputes.  This disrupted the normal conduct of industrial relations.  The ZCTU has recorded a number of cases where trade union officials have become a target of harassment, while ZCTU leadership is constantly under surveillance and arrest.

Thirdly, draconian legislation was used to undermine trade unionism.  The President Powers (Temporary measures) Act of 1998 was promulgated to criminalize strike action, which was expanded to include stay-aways.  Employers were given power to summarily dismiss anyone involved in strike action or stay-away.  Until recently the law and order (Maintenance) Act was used to suppress strike activity.  It has now been replaced by the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), which has incorporated the presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) of 1998.Zimbabwe economic crisis, is worsening.  The economic downturn was worsened by the drought of 2002 and the HIV and AIDS pandemic.33.7% of Zimbabwe is reported to be infected with HIV.The political and economic outlook remains bleak.




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