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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Zimbabwe

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1996
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Zimbabwe, 30 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa40c.html [accessed 13 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
ZIMBABWE

 

e. Acceptable Conditions of WorkZimbabwe is governed by President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), which have dominated the legislative and executive branches of government since independence in 1980. The Constitution allows for multiple parties; in addition to ZANU-PF, there are a large number of smaller parties. However, they are poorly organized and led, poorly financed, and subject to periodic intimidation by the ruling party and government security forces.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) are responsible for maintaining law and order. The Zimbabwe National Army and Air Force are responsible for external security. The Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) under the Ministry of State Security is responsible for internal and external security but no longer has powers of arrest. Members of the security forces committed human rights abuses.

The economy is primarily agricultural but has a strong mining sector and a diversified manufacturing base. Over 60 percent of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture. The formal sector unemployment rate remains above 45 percent. Both domestic and foreign investment are well below what is needed to spur solid economic growth and job creation. Annual per capita gross national product is approximately $650. Zimbabwe's Economic Structural Adjustment Program, now in its fifth year, has led changes, such as the removal of subsidies for staple foods, that have caused living standards to fall.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were significant problems in some areas, including incidents of police brutality, harsh prison conditions, the Government's refusal to abide by several court rulings, and the President's vocal campaign against homosexuals. Although the legislative and campaign climate remained tilted in favor of the ruling party, impartial election monitors found the April general elections to be generally free and fair. The electronic media, the major source of information for most Zimbabweans, remained government controlled. Although the small independent press was increasingly open and critical of the Government, the Government's arrest of three publishing executives on charges of criminal defamation demonstrated its willingness to intimidate the media. Domestic violence against women remained widespread, and traditional, often illegal, discrimination against women and the disabled continued.

Respect for Human Rights

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killings

There were no reports of political killings by government security forces. However, throughout the year, police killed 5 people in shooting incidents. In September a policeman shot a constable who challenged him for urinating in public; the policeman was arrested and charged with murder. On November 3, a policeman fired his rifle at a group of thieves, who had raided an office equipment store in Harare, and killed two bystanders and seriously injured a third. Outraged onlookers attacked the police and a riot ensued, causing property damage and two injuries. Police dispersed rioters by using tear gas and arrested 15 people in connection with the riot and related looting. In response to the incident, the Government apologized and promised that the ZRP would compensate the victims and their families. The other two incidents occurred in the course of a robbery and when a mob attempted to free a suspect and wrestle a gun from a police officer. There was at least one incident in which a person died while in police custody (see Section 1.c.).

There were no developments in the cases concerning the 1992 death in custody of 15-year-old Happy Dhlakama, the 1988 death of Captain Edwin Nyela, or the 1991 death of Lieutenant Shepard Chisango. No action has been taken on the 1993 Simplicius Chihambakwe Commission investigation into atrocities committed during the 1982-87 Matabeleland crisis. Human rights groups continued to collect information on reports of deaths and disappearances. Despite calls by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) for an investigation, the Government took no further action on the bodies discovered at Antelope Mine in Kezi in 1992; the remains have not been identified or properly buried.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. There were no developments in the 1990 disappearance of Rashiwe Guzha.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits torture and cruel and inhuman treatment. There were no reports of torture; however, despite improved ZRP training, low-ranking police and poorly trained parapolice called special constables continued to beat criminal suspects and detainees. In June ZRP forces injured students while putting down violent demonstrations (see Section 2.a.). Also in June, in Kwekwe police severely beat a criminal suspect, Mukhetiwa Chirenje, who subsequently died of unrelated causes. The policemen involved were charged with assault causing grevious bodily harm.

The Government has not actively pursued past allegations of torture, nor prosecuted CIO or ZRP officers for such abuses. The CIO continued to refuse to pay court-ordered damages to a 1990 torture victim.

Prison conditions remained harsh and have improved little since the CCJP issued its 1993 report describing extreme overcrowding, shortages of clothing, and poor sanitary conditions. Over 21,000 prisoners are incarcerated in a system built to accommodate 16,000. In some prisons, prisoners are allowed about one-half square meter per person. Overcrowding and poor sanitation aggravated outbreaks of cholera, diarrhea, and AIDS-related illnesses. An average of 25 prisoners a month died in custody, 18 from AIDS-related illnesses. Zimbabwe has established a successful community service sentencing program to try to alleviate prison overcrowding. Prison service officials who mistreat prisoners are routinely punished. The Government permits international human rights monitors to visit prisons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the Government observes these prohibitions. The law requires that police inform an arrested person of the charges against him before he is taken into custody. Although a preliminary hearing before a magistrate is required within 48 hours (or 96 hours over a weekend), the law is often disregarded if a person does not have legal representation. A 1992 amendment to the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act substantially reduced the power of magistrates to grant bail without the consent of the Attorney General or his agents. In practice, however, a circular issued by the Attorney General giving a general authority to grant bail has lessened the negative impact of the rule. High Court judges grant bail independently.

The Government still enjoys a wide range of legal powers under the Official Secrets Act and the Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA). Originally promulgated 30 years ago and widely used in the past to prosecute political opponents of the Government, the LOMA gives extensive powers to the police, the Minister of Home Affairs, and the President to address political and security crimes that are not clearly defined. The Government has not invoked the LOMA frequently, fearing that its oppressive provisions might be declared unconstitutional.

Pretrial detainees, who make up 20 per cent of the overall prison population, spent an average of 6 months in prison before their trials because of a critical shortage of magistrates and court interpreters. Daniel Machabe remained in custody after more than 8 years without going to trial.

The Government does not use exile as a means of political control.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the judiciary has a well-deserved reputation for independence. Judges are appointed for life and can be removed from the bench only for gross misconduct. They are not discharged or transferred for political reasons. Magistrates, who are part of the civil service rather than the judiciary, hear the vast majority of cases and are sometimes subject to political pressure. However, all levels of the judiciary often make rulings unpopular with the Government.

The Customary Law and Local Courts Act of 1990 created a unitary court system, consisting of headmen's courts, chiefs' courts, magistrates' courts, the High Court, and the Supreme Court. With this restructuring, civil and customary law cases may be heard at all levels of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court.

The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and the judiciary rigorously enforces this right. Every defendant has the right to a lawyer of his or her choosing. However, well over 90 percent of defendants in magistrates' courts go unrepresented. In criminal cases, an indigent defendant may apply to have the Government provide an attorney, but this is rarely done and rarely granted. In capital cases, the Government will provide an attorney for all defendants unable to afford one. Litigants in civil cases can request legal assistance from the Legal Resources Foundation or the Citizens Advice Bureau. All litigants are represented in the High Court. The Supreme Court has instructed magistrates to ensure that unrepresented defendants fully understand their rights and to weigh any mitigating circumstances in criminal cases, whether or not the accused presents them as part of his defense.

The right to appeal exists in all cases and is automatic in cases in which the death penalty is imposed. Trials are open to the public except in certain security cases. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to present witnesses and question witnesses against them. Defendants and their attorneys generally have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. The legal system does not discriminate against women or minorities. Trials in military and police courts meet internationally accepted standards for fair trials; defendants in these courts have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Government generally abided by court decisions even when it was strongly opposed to the rulings. However, the Government routinely delayed payment of court costs or judgments awarded against it. For example, the CIO continued its refusal to pay damages awarded by the High Court to a former opposition party official whom CIO agents tortured in 1990. The Attorney General's office was unable to force CIO compliance with the judgment. In addition, the Ministry of Home Affairs refused to comply with a 1994 Supreme Court ruling declaring that women should have the same rights as men to confer residency and citizenship on their spouses, and on December 19, the Government tabled a constitutional amendment that would overturn the ruling.

The Government invoked the rarely used LOMA in October when it arrested two suspects in an alleged assassination attempt against President Mugabe. There were reports that one of the two suspects was beaten severely following his arrest. On October 14, opposition ZANU-NDONGA party leader and Member of Parliament (M.P.) Ndabadingi Sithole, was arrested in connection with the plot and at year's end remained out on bail pending trial.

Legal and human rights activists continued to criticize the Government's efforts to pass constitutional amendments in order to undermine Supreme Court rulings. For example, Amendment 11 (1992) changed the Constitution to allow corporal punishment of minors after the Supreme Court ruled that caning of minors constituted cruel and inhuman punishment; the Government also asserted that death by hanging was not cruel and inhuman in anticipation of a case challenging hanging as a method of execution. Similarly, Amendment 13 (1993), passed just weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that long incarceration on death row constituted cruel and inhuman punishment, declared that neither treatment of prisoners nor delays in carrying out sentences entitled prisoners to a stay or remission of sentence.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence. Although the Government authorities generally respect these prohibitions and violations are subject to legal sanction, it is widely known that the Government sometimes monitors private correspondence and telephones, particularly international communications.

The need for land reform in Zimbabwe is almost universally accepted; however, problems have arisen with implementation of the 1992 Land Acquisition Act. Farmers whose lands have been designated for acquisition may only appeal the amount of compensation in administrative courts, not the initial decision to acquire their farms. Although there were no new designations in 1995, in the past this act was implemented largely along racial lines; the Government stated that black-owned commercial farms would not be subject to designation. In a few cases, land was designated for acquisition to achieve political goals. Opposition party leader M.P. Ndabaningi Sithole continued to fight the Government over its 1993 acquisition of his farm.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression but allows for legislation to limit this freedom in the "interest of defense, public safety, public order, state economic interests, public morality, and public health." Although the independent press is increasingly open and critical of government, there is a high degree of self-censorship in both the government- controlled and independent press.

Self-censorship is aggravated by antidefamation laws which make no distinction between public and private persons and an extremely broad Official Secrets Act which makes it a crime to divulge "any information acquired in the course of official duties." In May the editor in chief of the Financial Gazette, his deputy, and the chairman of Modus Publications were arrested on charges of criminal defamation related to their refusal to retract a story on the President's alleged marriage. Their Friday night arrest, necessitating 3 days' detention before their first hearing, was widely believed to have been calculated to intimidate the press.

Zimbabwe's major print media (seven English-language newspapers and one vernacular broadsheet) belong to the Mass Media Trust, a holding company heavily influenced by the Government and ruling party; the Ministry of Information controls the Zimbabwe Inter-Africa News Agency wire service. The Government influences mainstream media through indirect ownership, editorial appointments, directives to editors, and removal of wayward editors. The small independent press consists primarily of an economic weekly, a Sunday tabloid, and three monthly magazines. They carefully monitor government policies and open their pages to opposition critics; other minor independent publications exist with circulations under 3,000.

Radio and television are entirely government owned and controlled. Journalists report that ZANU-PF Secretary for

Information Nathan Shamuyarira is often involved in determining what news is broadcast. The Broadcasting Act currently gives the Zimbabwe Broadcast Corporation (ZBC) monopoly status, and the Government has repeatedly refused to license independent radio and television stations. However, in August, the Supreme Court ruled that the Government's monopoly on telecommunications was unconstitutional because it interfered with the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

Although the ZBC granted free air time to each party contesting the April general elections, opposition party allies and press conferences received only limited television and radio coverage. In addition, the Bulawayo Chronicle edited a paid advertisement placed by the Forum Party without the party's consent because the editor deemed its mention of compensation for the victims of the Matabeleland Crisis (1982-87) "inflammatory."

Books and films are subject to review by the Zimbabwe Board of Censors.

Academic freedom is curtailed by the University of Zimbabwe Amendment Act and the National Council for Higher Education Act, both of which together greatly restrict the independence of universities, making them subject to government influence and extending the disciplinary powers of the university authorities against staff and students. Following student demonstrations in June and July, the Minister of Higher Education dissolved the University Council and suspended the Student Representative Council's board (11 of its 12 members were later reinstated). On June 26, the ZRP forcefully suppressed violent student demonstrations, resulting in scores of injuries. In the aftermath of the demonstrations, the senior officer in charge of the operation was transferred to another division. In December the University Council expelled four student leaders for their role in the demonstrations.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right of assembly and association for political and nonpolitical organizations, including a broad spectrum of economic, social, professional, and recreational activities. The formation of unions and political parties is not restricted. Organizations are generally free of governmental interference as long as their activities are viewed as nonpolitical. However, under the Welfare Organizations Act of 1995, the Minister of Social Welfare, Labor, and Public Service is empowered to suspend the executive body or "any member of the executive committee of an organization and to appoint persons to manage the affairs of the organization for a specified time." The Minister invoked this act in November, removing members of a women's nongovernmental organization (NGO) executive body. The press subsequently alleged that the members were removed for tribal reasons. As a result of this act, several newly established NGO's decided to establish their organizations as "associations" connected with established NGO's so that their executive bodies would not be subject to government interference.

Permits are no longer required for meetings or demonstrations. However, opposition parties complained that during the April elections, public halls they booked were often double-booked or not opened as scheduled. In December President Mugabe threatened to outlaw all demonstrations and the Minister of Home Affairs said that a draft Public Order Act would tighten government control over demonstrations.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government generally respects them in practice.

The new Zimbabwean Citizenship and Immigration bill, presented to Parliament in mid-1994 but not yet law, tightens prohibitions against dual citizenship. Human rights groups are concerned that these provisions will most affect white Zimbabweans, many of whom hold dual citizenship, and will interfere with citizens' right of return.

The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. There were no reports of forced expulsion of those having a valid claim to refugee status. There were approximately 350 refugees in Zimbabwe from a variety of African nations.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens have the legal right to change their government through democratic means. However, the political process continued to be tilted through various means in favor of the ruling party. President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party remained the dominant political force within the country. In the April general elections, ZANU-PF captured 118 of the 120 elected seats. The 10 chiefs who sit as M.P.'s are elected by their peers. The President also appoints 8 provincial governors, who sit as M.P.'s, and 12 nonconstituency M.P.'s. The net result of several constitutional amendments has been to consolidate the power of the executive branch and to limit M.P.s' independence. There is no effective parliamentary opposition, and the legislature remained subordinate to the executive branch.

There are many small opposition parties. However, their growth is inhibited by a variety of factors including the Political Parties Finance Act (PPFA) and the government monopoly on the electronic media. The PPFA provides government funding only to those parties that have more than 15 parliamentary seats, effectively giving all public funding to the ruling party. Several opposition parties boycotted the elections, claiming that until the PPFA, the Electoral Act, and the Broadcast Act were substantially revised, they would be unable to surmount the hurdles placed before them by the electoral system. However, the opposition parties' lack of coherent platforms, poor leadership, and infighting played an equally important role in their poor showing in the general elections.

Voting in the general election was peaceful and generally free and fair. In contrast to the 1990 general election, senior ruling party officials and the Commissioner of Police did not tolerate political violence. When violence erupted in Harare South district several weeks before the election, the ringleaders were arrested and charged with public violence. The Government enacted regulations allowing volunteer election monitors to act as agents of the Electoral Supervisory Commission. Over 1,500 NGO poll watchers were deployed nationwide to monitor voting and vote counting, and human rights organizations praised the conduct of the ZRP during the elections. There were no reports of bias or intimidation by election officials.

In the election campaign, however, government officials and members of the ruling party attempted to influence the outcome of the elections through various means, including harassment of voters and opposition party members. The campaign was marked by lopsided media coverage, inaccuracies in the voters' roll, and widespread irregularities during the ZANU-PF primaries. There were credible reports that ruling party officials threatened voters that their constituencies would receive no development assistance and no government food aid if they did not support the ruling party. Monitors in Kwekwe reported that voters were told that if they did not support the ruling party, the atrocities of the 1982-87 Matabeleland crisis would be repeated. The CIO occasionally harassed and threatened opposition party members.

There are institutional problems with the management and supervision of elections. Although the Ministry of Justice technically administers the Electoral Act, the Registrar General's Office falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs. With a meager budget and a tiny staff seconded from the

Ministry of Justice, the Electoral Supervisory Commission lacks the institutional capacity to oversee properly Zimbabwe's 2,200 polling stations. Nor do commissioners have the executive authority to order that an irregularity be corrected. Despite an attempt to computerize the voters' roll before the general election, the roll contained over 1 million redundancies or errors, including misspellings, multiple entries, and names of the deceased. This occurred despite the Registrar General's earlier announcement that the Delimitation Commission would not count voters when defining constituency boundaries unless they reregistered. There was no mechanism provided for the public to comment on the newly defined boundaries or for adjustment of the boundaries.

Thousands of voters were turned away at polling stations because their names were missing from or improperly listed on the roll. In addition, several independent and opposition candidates and one ruling party primary winner were disqualified because their nominators' names did not appear or were misspelled on the roll.

The High Court nullified the election results from Harare South district. An opposition party also challenged the results of the July by-election in Gweru on the grounds that registration irregularities affected the outcome. At year's end the case was still pending in the High Court, as was the Forum Party of Zimbabwe's case alleging election irregularities in the mayoral and urban council elections.

There were similar allegations of voting irregularities during the ZANU-PF primaries for Parliament and local government posts. For example, lists of party officials eligible to vote were lost or incomplete and several candidates created "phantom" party districts to increase the number of their supporters eligible to vote. Following the July local government primaries, the party politburo nullified the results, scheduled new primaries, declared that primaries were postponed indefinitely, and then announced in September that the elections would be held the following day.

Women participate in politics without legal restriction. However, according to local women's groups, husbands-- particularly in rural areas--commonly force their wives to vote for the husband's preferred candidates. Twenty-three of the 150 M.P.'s are women, including the Deputy Speaker of Parliament. There are two female cabinet ministers and three deputy ministers. All major ethnic groups are represented in Parliament and in the Government.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Although the Government permits local civic and human rights groups to operate, it monitors their activities closely, in particular those of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and ZIMRIGHTS. Other groups that promote human rights include the Legal Resource Foundation and the Southern African Federation of the Disabled. In 1995 Amnesty International and Transparency International opened in Harare. The International Committee of the Red Cross operates a regional office in Harare. The Government does not discourage representatives from international human rights groups from visiting Zimbabwe.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides that "every person in Zimbabwe" is entitled to fundamental rights whatever his race, tribe, place of origin, political opinions, color, creed, or sex. In August President Mugabe attacked homosexuality in a series of speeches and urged Zimbabweans to "arrest homosexuals and turn them over to the police." At the insistence of the Government, the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) group was forced to withdraw its participation in the 1995 Zimbabwe International Book Fair. However, the police have not harassed GALZ members.

Women

Domestic violence against women, especially wife beating, is common and crosses all racial and economic lines. Women's groups have noted that every police station in Zimbabwe has handled at least one case of a woman killed by her husband. According to Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), domestic violence accounts for more than 60 percent of murder cases in the Harare High Court. In 1992, the last year for which official statistics are available, 4,437 official complaints of wife beating were filed. Human rights groups have noted that increased training has improved police community relations officers' handling of these cases. There were 964 reports of rape (the majority involving girls under 14) in 1992, the last year for which police statistics are available. When cases come to court, the courts generally impose stiff sentences for rape and wife beating.

Since independence, the Government has enacted major laws aimed at enhancing women's rights and countering certain traditional practices that discriminate against women. However, women remain disadvantaged in Zimbabwean society. Illiteracy, economic dependency, and prevailing social norms prevent rural women in particular from combating societal discrimination. Despite legal prohibitions, women are still vulnerable to entrenched customary practices, including "kuzvarira," the practice of pledging a young women to marriage with a partner not of her choosing; "nhaka," the custom of forcing a widow to marry her late husband's brother; and the customary practice of offering a young girl as compensatory payment in interfamily disputes. Many doctors and hospitals routinely require the husband's consent for women seeking long-term contraception.

The Legal Age of Majority Act and the Matrimonial Causes Act recognize women's right to own property independently of their husbands or fathers. However, while unmarried women may own property in their own names, women married under customary law are not allowed to own property jointly with their husbands. Despite a 1994 Supreme Court ruling that the practice of allowing only men, not women, to confer citizenship or permanent residence status on their spouses and children was discriminatory, the Immigration Service did not institute the change (see Section 1.e.), and the Government has tabled a constitutional amendment which would overturn the ruling. Inheritance laws remain unfavorable to widows. The Government took no legislative action on a draft inheritance law that would address the issue of unfair and unequal distribution of inherited assets. Divorce and maintenance laws are favorable toward women, but women generally lack awareness of their rights under the law.

Although labor legislation prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, women are concentrated in the lower echelons of the work force and commonly face sexual harassment in the workplace.

Several active women's rights groups in Zimbabwe, including WILDAF, the Musasa Project, and the Women's Action Group, concentrate on improving women's knowledge of their legal rights, increasing women's economic power, and combating domestic violence. There is no office specifically responsible for women's affairs; the Government eliminated the office of Minister of State for Women's Affairs in May.

Children

The Government continued to demonstrate its strong commitment to children's rights and welfare through a system of primary health care and education overseen by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare. The Children's Protection and Adoption Act, the Guardianship of Minors Act, and the Deceased Person's Maintenance Act all protect the legal rights of minor children. Zimbabwe ratified the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in May. While there is no compulsory education, Zimbabwe has made considerable progress in providing education for girls, and overall primary school attendance has increased by more than 400 percent since independence. Ninety-three percent of children reach grade five. With the reintroduction of school fees in urban schools and rural secondary schools, however, enrollment has declined. If a family is unable to pay tuition costs, it is most often female children who leave school. Child abuse, as such, does not appear to be widespread. However, incest, long taboo in Zimbabwean society, is increasing, and there are increasing reports of instances of infanticide, child abandonment, and rape.

The Ministry of Justice established a Vulnerable Witnesses Committee composed of representatives from the ZRP, NGO's, and the courts. The Committee launched a training program and has two pilot projects to improve the judicial system's handling of child victims of rape and sexual abuse. The criminal justice system has special provisions for dealing with juvenile offenders.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health, is rarely performed in Zimbabwe. However, according to press reports, the initiation rites practiced by the small Remba ethnic group in Midlands province include infibulation, the most extreme form of FGM.

People with Disabilities

Fulfilling a campaign promise to give the disabled representation in Parliament, in April President Mugabe appointed a disability activist to Parliament. The Disabled Persons Act of 1992 specifically prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, admission to public places, or provision of services and is viewed by advocates of the disabled as model legislation. In practice, however, the lack of resources for training and education severely hampers the ability of disabled people to compete for scarce jobs. Although this act stipulates that government buildings should have access for disabled persons, for budgetary reasons this is rarely provided. Disabled people face particularly harsh customary discrimination. According to traditional belief, people with disabilities are considered bewitched, and reports of disabled children being hidden when visitors arrive are common.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Shona ethnic group makes up 77 percent of the population, Ndebele 14 percent, Kalanga 5 percent, whites 1 percent, and other ethnic groups 3 percent. Government services are provided on a nondiscriminatory basis, and the Government has sought to expand and improve the previously "whites only" infrastructure in urban areas to provide health and social services to all citizens. Nevertheless, in social terms, Zimbabwe remains a racially stratified country. While schools and churches are all integrated, social interaction among racial groups is still limited. Although intertribal relations are generally very good, the disproportionate number of Shona-speaking teachers and headmasters in Matabeleland schools remained a sensitive issue.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Labor Relations Act (LRA) provides private sector workers with freedom of association and the right to elect their own representatives, publish newsletters, and set programs and policies which reflect the political and economic interests of labor. Workers are free to form or join unions without prior authorization. The LRA allows for the existence of multiple unions per industry, provided that each is registered with the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare (MPSLSW). While the Government may deregister individual unions, the High Court has ruled that the LRA does not give the Minister the power to suspend or deregister the national umbrella labor confederation, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

Less than 20 per cent of the salaried work force belongs to the 33 unions that form the ZCTU. ZCTU officers are elected by the delegates of affiliated trade unions at congresses held every 5 years. While the Government encouraged the ZCTU's formation, anticipating that it would form the labor arm of ZANU-PF, it no longer directly influences ZCTU actions. The Government and the ZCTU often clash on economic policy, particularly the Economic Structural Adjustment Program. The Government routinely does not consult either the ZCTU or employers before implementing policy decisions affecting the workplace. This lack of consultation often results in reactions which disrupt labor relations, promoting uncertainty and even strikes. At its 1995 Congress, the ZCTU called for the formation of a standing committee consisting of labor, government, and industry representatives that would comment on all government policy decisions affecting labor. Although the LRA allows for the formation of multiple national federations, none but the ZCTU exists.

Public servants and their associations, the Public Service Association (PSA), the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, and the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, are not covered by the provisions of the LRA. Their conditions of employment are provided for under the Constitution, and they are constitutionally barred from forming unions. The Government took no action on proposals to join the public and private sectors under one LRA.

The Labor Relations Amendment Act (LRAA) of 1992 specifies that workers may establish independent worker committees, which exist side by side with unions, in each plant. Worker committees must also be registered with the MPSLSW, which is free to refuse registration. Trade union officials believe that the formation of worker committees was an attempt to dilute union authority. However, the ineffectiveness of worker committees demonstrated the need for the experienced worker representation of the established trade unions.

The International Conference of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has criticized Zimbabwean labor legislation for giving "wide scope to the authorities to declare that a given enterprise or industry constitutes an essential service, and then impose a ban (on strikes) on it." This authority was not used during 1995. Workers in sectors deemed "nonessential" have the right to strike provided the union advises the Government 2 weeks in advance of its intention to do so. If the MPSLSW finds that administrative requirements were not met for a strike, it can issue a disposal order that gives the employer the right to dismiss striking workers. This occurred only once in 1995, and was subsequently withdrawn. There were fewer than 20 strikes, none lasting more than a week.

The ZCTU and its officials are free to associate with international labor organizations and do so actively. The ZCTU is affiliated with the ICFTU and the Southern African Trade Union Coordinating Council. The African American Labor Center maintains a regional office based in Harare.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The LRA provides workers with the right to organize. As originally enacted, this act was silent on the right to bargain collectively. However, the 1992 LRAA permits unions to bargain collectively over wages. Worker committees, which are by law not organizationally part of the unions or the ZCTU, are empowered to negotiate with the management of a particular plant the conditions of labor and codes of conduct in the workplace, except for wages.

Collective bargaining wage negotiations take place on an industrywide basis between the relevant union and employer organizations sitting on joint employment boards or councils. These bodies submit their agreements to the registrar in the MPSLSW for approval. The Government retains the power to veto agreements it believes would harm the economy. However, it did not directly involve itself in labor negotiations unless requested to do so by one of the two parties. When no trade union represents a specific sector, representatives of the organized workers, i.e., the professional associations, meet with the employer associations, under the mediation of labor officers from the MPSLSW. Public sector wages are determined by the Salary Service Department of the MPSLSW, subject to the approval of an independent Public Service Commission (PSC). Each year, PSC officials meet with PSA representatives to review wages and benefits. These reviews result in a recommendation which is forwarded to the MPSLSW. The Minister is not required by law to accept the recommendation.

Employees designated as being in managerial positions are excluded from union membership and thus from the collective bargaining process. The presence of the ZCTU or specific national unions in individual shop floor or worker committee negotiations is not mandated.

The LRA prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers against union members. Complaints of such discrimination are referred to labor relations officers and may subsequently be adjudicated by the Labor Relations Tribunal (LRT). Such complaints are handled under the mechanism for resolving cases involving "unfair labor practices." The determining authority may direct that workers fired due to antiunion discrimination should be reinstated, although this has yet to be tested in practice.

The LRAA streamlined the procedure for adjudicating disputes by strengthening the LRT. Now, labor relations officers hear a dispute; their decision may be appealed to regional labor relations officers, at which point the LRT may hear the case. Ultimately, it may be appealed to the Supreme Court. In 1993 the Government filled long vacant positions on the LRT, but at year's end the LRT boards were still not fully staffed and faced a backlog of over 630 cases awaiting hearing.

The Export Processing Zones Act was promulgated in August. The act states that the LRA shall not apply to workers in export processing zones (EPZ's). Due to intensive ZCTU lobbying efforts, however, President Mugabe agreed to have this changed by regulation or amendment so that the LRA will apply. At year's end, EPZ's had not yet been established.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Compulsory labor is prohibited by law, and there were no reports that it was practiced.

d. Minimum Age of Employment of Children

The law affords little protection to working children. There is no specific legal prohibition of child labor; the LRA only states that contracts of employment shall not be enforceable against any person under the age of 16. Although schooling is not compulsory, over 90 percent of children attend school through grade five (see Section 5).

The presence of child labor in industry is marginal since a ready supply of adult labor at relatively low wages gives firms little incentive to employ children. Children are most often employed as casual farm workers, domestics, or in the informal sector; only a tiny percentage of children work full-time. In the communal areas, financial necessity often dictates the use of child labor during the harvest season and for tending livestock. There were anecdotal reports of an increase in the number of children working full-time in the informal sector and small-scale alluvial gold panning. The Government formed a task force in late 1993 to define child labor, determine problem areas, and suggest legislation to alleviate these problems. It has yet to release its report or a draft law or regulations based on its findings.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The maximum legal work week is 54 hours, and the law prescribes a minimum of one 24-hour rest period per week. Working conditions are regulated by the Government according to industry. The Constitution empowers the PSC to set conditions of employment in the public sector. Government regulations for each of the 22 industrial sectors continue to specify minimum wages, hours, holidays, and required safety measures. In recent years, in an effort to opt out of the wage bargaining system, the Government mandated wage parameters and specified minimum wage increases only for domestics and gardeners. Due to an ineffective monitoring system, many such workers are remunerated below the minimum wage.

The minimum monthly wage for domestics and gardeners of $28.08 (Z$242.89) is the de facto minimum wage for Zimbabwe. In most instances the employer must provide housing and food to workers or allowances for such. On commercial farms, the employer may provide schooling for workers' children. The minimum wage is not sufficient to sustain a decent standard of living. Workers in those sectors covered under collective bargaining agreements received wage increases averaging a few percentage points below the 23 percent inflation rate. Minimum monthly wage rates ranged from $33.50 (Z$290) in the agricultural sector to approximately $70 to $83 (Z$600 to Z$720) in the various manufacturing sectors. In theory, labor relations officers from the MPSLSW are assigned to monitor developments in each plant to assure that government minimum wage policy and occupational health and safety regulations are observed. In practice, these offices are understaffed, cannot afford to routinely inspect workplaces, and must rely on voluntary compliance and reporting by employers.

Safety in the workplace is a continuing problem. Over the past 4 years, an average of 17,500 work-related accidents (including 224 deaths) were reported each year. Many of the basic legal protections do not apply to the vast majority of farm, mine, and domestic workers. Unions charge that there are no general standards for the work environment, such as threshold limits for manually lifted weights or conditions for pregnant workers. Health and safety standards are determined only on an industry-specific basis. The Government intervenes on a selected basis (and often seemingly in response to the most recent accident) and sets standards by regulation in some industries. In theory, workers have a legal right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment; in practice, they risk the loss of their livelihood.

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