“The stone that the builders rejected and dejected, is now supporting a crowd of 161 million people” – On the 14 June this year I had the enviable opportunity of meeting the legendary Wellington Chibebe, a man held like a piece of paper back home in Zimbabwe, but once out of the country, he quickly became a hard rock now holding a large population 10 times that of Zimbabwe.
By Simba Chikanza | This man, now sitting as Deputy SG of the International Trade Union Confederation has under him over 161 million people (10 times Mugabe’s entire population!), and by the way, wait a minute, Wellington Chibebe also happens to be Zimbabwean!
It was a shiny hot afternoon in June and I had just jetted into Belgium. Struggling under the flaming temperature, I decided to dress casually and head straight for his office. After entering the building, we were taken on a long walk across the stately offices. There was a reception, and many workers occupying the whole floor space. But after seeing a string of Europeans suddenly I saw one African man. We were motioned into Mr Wellington Chibhebhe’s offices. He was introduced as the second most senior person in the world’s largest body of Trade Unions.
We had a lengthy chat and I conjoined my first ever moments with Mr Chibebe. Years before I used to cover him in the news, particularly when he was treated like trash, harassed, arrested and assaulted, all the way up to the time his party, the MDC-T cast him away from any influential position. They too, perhaps like Mugabe, failed to recognise this gem of a rock which now hails from the centre of the European Union, the seat of the world’s largest single market.
How this secret Zim stone was discovered by foreigners: Chibebe’s upbringing is all humble and non glorious – He was just a low ranking diesel plant fitter at the National Railways Of Zimbabwe.
He later joined the ZCTU in 2001 having previously served as President of the National Railway Workers’ Union, which he joined in 1988 after serving his apprenticeship as a diesel plant fitter.
He then worked hard at his low of lows job to later study law at the University Of South Africa. While burning the midnight candle, he managed to attain a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB) from UNISA.
He became the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and in 2011 Chibebe was elected Deputy General Secretary of the ITUC, the International Trade Union Confederation.
In 2014, he was re-elected as ITUC Deputy General Secretary. His vision for the future? Will he ever come back home? ZimEye will in the coming weeks profile Chibebe’s career path past present and future.
I believe that there are many Zimbabwean precious stones scattered around the world who are like Chibebe – this is ZimEye’s mission, to profile and network these great minds – get them to rebuild not only Zimbabwe, but the world beyond.
The ITUC regional organisations are the Asia-Pacific Regional Organisation (ITUC-AP), the African Regional Organisation (ITUC-AF) and the American Regional Organisation (TUCA). It cooperates with the European Trade Union Confederation, including through the Pan-European Regional Council. – ZimEye