United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Zimbabwe, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4a2c.html [accessed 1 May 2016]
This 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 is governed by President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) which has 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, 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 Police Internal Security and Intelligence (PISI) Unit, a branch of the ZRP, and the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) under the Ministry of State Security are responsible for internal and external security. The Zimbabwean National Army and Air Force also have intelligence staff structures, which perform a variety of intelligence and security functions. Since 1991, the CIO and PISI have not been permitted to arrest or detain suspects in internal security cases. The CIO and PISI were accused of human rights abuses in the past, including the use of torture, and still periodically harass opposition political parties. There were no new reports of other human rights abuses committed by the CIO or the PISI. There was one instance of wrongful use of lethal fire in 1994, and there were credible reports that police sometimes beat suspected criminals. A significant number of police officers were tried and punished for suchabuses. ZRP authorities cooperated with local human rights groups to incorporate a legal and human rights curriculum into regular police training. Zimbabwe's economy has strong agricultural and mining sectors, a diversified manufacturing base, and a growing services sector. The country is 4 years into its Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), which has led to a host of changes and dislocations, such as the removal of subsidies for staple foods, that have caused living standards to fall. The unemployment rate remains above 45 percent, and both domestic and foreign investment are well below what is needed to spur solid economic growth and job creation. The pace of Zimbabwe's land acquisition program, which was used in the past to punish political opponents of the Government, slowed in late 1994 as the Government concentrated on resettlement and land tenure issues. The human rights climate in Zimbabwe generally improved, led by several Supreme Court rulings that bolstered the rights of women, free assembly, freedom of the press, and due process. The Government took some steps to address continuing problems of harsh prison conditions and sought to improve police performance through training and prosecuting officers responsible for abuses. However, the Government took no action to investigate and prosecute those responsible for atrocities committed during the 1982-87 "Matabeleland Dissident Crisis." The ruling party continued to dominated the political arena, in part because opposition parties were unable to qualify for public funds disbursed under the 1992 Political Parties Finance Act. President Mugabe's pardon in January of a CIO agent and a ruling party official convicted of the 1990 attempted murder of an opposition candidate for Parliament sent a negative signal that human rights abuses and violence committed on behalf of the ruling party would be tolerated. Alhough the small independent press was increasingly open and critical of the Government, the more influential electronic media remained government controlled. 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 Killing
There were no reports of political killings by government security forces, but the police killed one person in a shooting incident. The ZRP launched its own investigations of approximately 10 lethal fire incidents in 1993. The Government prosecuted or disciplined well over a third of police officers involved in shooting incidents. The inquest into the 1990 death in police custody of 15-year-old Happy Dhlakama was inconclusive. The presiding magistrate ruled that Dhlakama had been beaten by police special constables but was unable to determine whether or not he had died of his injuries. The inquest revealed problems with the handling of medical treatment and records in questionable deaths. The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) is now pursuing compensation for Dhlakama's family in civil court. The Government refused to reopen investigations of the 1988 death of Captain Edwin Nyela and the 1991 death of Lieutenant Shepard Chisango, despite continued calls from Zimbabwean and international human rights groups for inquests. The Government's handling of these cases will likely inhibit military officers from denouncing corruption in the armed forces in the future. There was no progress in the Simplicius Chihambakwe Commission's investigation into atrocities committed during the 1982-87 Matabeleland Crisis. The information collected in 2 days of interviews in mid-1993 was reportedly so damaging that the investigation was indefinitely suspended. Human rights groups continued to collect information on reports of deaths and disappearances, but many relatives of the victims are too frightened to come forward with information. However, the newly enacted Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Act of 1994 will make it easier for relatives of the victims of the Matabeland Crisis to obtain relatives' death certificates and thereby enroll children in school, obtain identity and travel documents for children, and settle estates. Despite President Mugabe's 1992 assertion that no compensation would be paid to victims of the Matabeleland Crisis because atrocities were committed "during a state of war," two cases in 1994 set an important precedent for victims. In May the Ministry of Home Affairs and the ZRP agreed to pay compensation to the widow of Gibson Sibanda, whom police arrested and later murdered for political reasons in 1985. In late 1993, the Government admitted liability for the wrongful arrest and loss of property and income stemming from Lloyd Kudzai's detention by the CIO from 1983-1987. Kudzai's High Court testimony included allegations of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners at Ross Camp in Bulawayo. The CCJP believes that the mass graves discovered at Antelope Mine near Kezi in 1992 contained the remains of victims of extrajudicial killings committed by the army between 1983 and 85. The CCJP has called for a full-scale investigation. However, the Government has taken no action to investigate the site and also failed to respond to the Catholic Bishop of Bulawayo's request that a "service of reconciliation" be held at the mine to commemorate the dead.
There were no reported disappearances in 1994. The case of Rashiwe Guzha, who disappeared in 1990, has not been reopened despite calls from the CCJP and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZIMRIGHTS) for a new investigation.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
There were no credible reports of torture in 1994. The Government has not actively pursued allegations that torture was used in the past and did not prosecute CIO or ZRP officials for such abuses in 1994. Despite improved ZRP training, the beating of criminal suspects and detainees by the ZRP remained a problem in 1994, particularly among low-ranking police and poorly trained parapolice called special constables. Prison conditions have not improved since the CCJP issued its 1993 report describing extreme overcrowding, shortages of clothing, and poor sanitary conditions. Over 22,000 prisoners are incarcerated in a prison 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. According to the Zimbabwean Prison Service, an average of 25 prisoners a month died in custody, 18 from AIDS-related illnesses. (The HIV-positive rate of the general Zimbabwean population is roughly 10 percent; the rate is likely much higher in the prison population, most of whom are in the most affected 19- to 49-year-old-age bracket.) The Supreme Court ruled in August that restrictions limiting prisoners to one letter per month were excessive. In response to the problems, the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the Zimbabwean Prison Service, in conjunction with the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF), a human rights group that focuses on legal rights, have undertaken a program in human rights training for prison service employees in the hopes of improving their treatment of prisoners. Prison Service officials who violate prison rules and mistreat prisoners are routinely punished.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The police must by law inform an arrested person of the charges against him before he is taken into custody. Although a preliminary hearing is required before a magistrate 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. Although the rule has been decried by legal practitioners and magistrates, in practice 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 may still apply a wide range of legal powers under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) or 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 in power, 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. However, in February several leaders of the telecommunications union strike were detained briefly under the LOMA. Pretrial detainees spend an average of 3 months in prison before their trials because of a critical shortage of magistrates and court interpreters. Zimbabwean law lacks provisions to allow judges to take time spent in pretrial detention into account in sentencing. Overall, 20 percent of detainees in Zimbabwean jails in 1994 had not yet been tried, down from 22 percent in 1993. In August the Supreme Court ordered a detainee's release after ruling that long pretrial incarceration violated his right to a speedy trial. However, Daniel Machabe, whose murder trial has been delayed for more than 7 years, remained in custody. To reduce pretrial detention, the Government appointed additional High Court judges and expanded the magistrates courts. The Government held no political detainees at year's end. Exile is not used as a means of political control.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
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 customary law cases may be heard at all levels of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court. The reactivation of chiefs' and headmen's courts made the legal system much more accessible to people in remote areas who had had little contact with the formal court system. The Government implemented training programs for presiding officers in chiefs' and headmens' courts to help eliminate traditional but illegal practices such as the custom of forcing a widow to marry her late husband's brother. Zimbabwe's judiciary has a well-deserved reputation for independence. Judges serve life terms and can be removed from the bench only for gross misconduct. They are not discharged or transferred for political reasons. However, magistrates, who are part of the civil service rather than the judiciary, hear the vast majority of cases in Zimbabwe and are sometimes subject to political pressure. The Government generally abides by court decisions even when it is strongly opposed to the rulings. However, in the past, the Government passed a series of constitutional amendments which undermined major Supreme Court rulings. For example, Amendment 11 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 CCJP test case challenging hanging as a method of execution. Similarly, Amendment 13, 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 (see Section 1.c.). The Magistrates Court found the CIO and ZANU-PF officers who shot opposition party candidate Patrick Kombayi during the 1990 campaign guilty of attempted murder. President Mugabe granted the two a remission of sentence within 48 hours of the Supreme Court's ruling upholding their conviction. The pardon sent a negative signal to the Zimbabwean public that abuses on behalf of the ruling party would be tolerated, as did the subsequent appointment of one of the two men to the ZANU-PF Central Committee. Further investigations of the part Vice President Simon Muzenda's driver and bodyguard may have had in the shooting have not been carried out. 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 may apply to have the Government supply an attorney, but this type of representation is rarely applied for and rarely granted. In capital cases the Government will provide an attorney for all defendants unable to afford one. However, human rights groups have highlighted the poor quality of some of the representation provided to indigents, particularly in capital cases. Litigants in civil cases can request legal assistance from the LRF or the Ministry of Justice's 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. The legal system does not discriminate against women or minorities.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution protects citizens from arbitrary search or entry, and since the lifting of the State of Emergency (SOE) in June 1990, these protections have been generally respected. It is widely known, however, that the Government monitors private correspondence and telephones, particularly international communications. Although the need for land reform in Zimbabwe is almost universally accepted, pursuant to 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 decision to acquire their farms. The Act has been implemented largely along racial lines; the Government stated that black-owned commercial farms would not be subject to designation. In some cases, land has been designated for acquisition to achieve political goals. The designation of former Member of Parliament (M. P.) Henry Ellsworth's home farm for acquisition, highlighted in the 1993 Human Rights Report as an example of the Land Acquisition Act's use as a political tool, has been revoked. However, opposition party leader Ndabaningi Sithole is still fighting the Government's acquisition of his Churu farm. After the Government's late 1993 attempt to evict more than 2,500 families living on the property, several thousand Churu farm residents were resettled on a holding farm where several died as the result of abysmal sanitary conditions. The situation at Churu farm remained at a standoff until October 1994, when the ZRP evicted the remaining 1,600 residents and resettled them at a camp formerly used by Mozambican refugees.
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."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 Zimbabwe Inter-Africa News Agency (ZIANA Wire Service) is controlled by the Ministry of Information. The Government influences mainstream media through indirect ownership, editorial appointments, directives to editors, and removal of wayward editors. There is no real opposition press, but a small independent press, consisting primarily of a daily that ceased publication for financial reasons on December 25, an economic weekly, two Sunday tabloids, and three monthly magazines, carefully monitors government policies and opens its pages to opposition critics. Other minor independent publications exist, mostly monthlies, with circulations under 3,000. The independent press has been increasingly critical of the Government and the ruling party. Despite its harsh public attacks on many of the independent publiations, the Government has taken no overt punitive measures against them. There is a high degree of self-censorship in both the government-influenced and independent press, aggravated by antidefamation laws which make no distinction between public and private persons and an extremely broad OSA. In February the authorities brought a Daily Gazette reporter and his editor to court and questioned them for alleged contravention of the OSA after the Gazette published a story about income tax evasion by state-owned enterprises. The Act, based on the first British OSA, makes it a crime to divulge "any information acquired in the course of official duties."In March a High Court judge ruled that a reporter may keep his sources confidential if he uncovers the commission of a crime or the existence of corruption because revelation of sources would make future informants reluctant to come forward and would therefore be detrimental to the public interest. Radio and television are entirely government owned and controlled. The Broadcasting Act gives the Zimbabwe Broadcast Corporation monopoly status. The Government has repeatedly refused to license independent radio and television stations. Journalists report that ZANU-PF Secretary for Information (and Foreign Minister) Nathan Shamuyarira is often involved in determining what news is broadcast. Opposition party rallies and press conferences receive only limited television or radio coverage. The University of Zimbabwe Amendment Act and the National Council for Higher Education Act 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, thus curtailing academic freedom.
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. Organizations are generally free of governmental interference as long as their activities are viewed as nonpolitical. In March, as part of the trial of six trade unionists arrested under the LOMA for participating in a prohibited demonstration in June 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 6 of the LOMA (requiring police authorization for demonstrations) was unconstitutional because it interfered with the right to free speech. There are many active unions, political parties, and human rights organizations. The formation of unions and political parties is not restricted. In law and in practice, however, serious obstacles prevent the full exercise of this right, particularly in the case of political associations (see Section 3).
c. Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion is respected in Zimbabwe. There is no state religion. Denominations are permitted to worship openly, pursue social and charitable activities, and maintain ties with affiliates and coreligionists abroad.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
There were no reports of restrictions on domestic or international travel in 1994. Zimbabwean citizens do not have automatic right of return. In June the Supreme Court ruled that the practice of allowing only Zimbabwean men, not women, to confer citizenship or permanent residence status on their spouses and children was discriminatory. However, at year's end, the Immigration Service had not received implementing regulations to institute the change. The new Zimbabwean Citizenship and Immigration bill, presented to Parliament in mid-1994 but not yet law, tightens prohibitions against dual citizenship and reduces the period a person can be out of the country without losing his Zimbabwean citizenship from 7 to 5 years. Zimbabwean human rights groups are concerned that these provisions will affect white Zimbabweans, many of whom hold dual citizenship, more directly than black Zimbabweans and will interfere with citizens' right of return. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in 1994 the registered refugee population went from over 100,000 to approximately 750, mostly Mozambicans. Prior to Mozambique's elections, the Government and the UNHCR repatriated nearly 5,000 refugees per week. The Government permitted UNHCR officials unrestricted access to refugee camps. There were no reported instances of forced repatriation to a country where a refugee fears persecution.
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, but the last general election in March 1990, which was marked by intimidation by the security forces, lopsided media coverage, inaccuracies in the voters' rolls and voting irregularities in some constituencies, called into question the ability of citizens to exercise that right. The ruling party captured 117 of the 120 seats in those elections. The 10 chiefs who sit as M. P.'s are elected by their peers. The President has the power further to appoint 8 provincial governors, who sit as M. P.'s, and 12 nonconstituency M. P.'s; as a result, there is no effective parliamentary opposition. President Mugabe and his Cabinet are the preeminent political figures, and the ruling party, ZANU-PF, is the dominant political organization in the country. Following the amendment of the Constitution in 1987 to create a strong executive presidency, Robert Mugabe, who previously served as Prime Minister, became in 1988 both the Head of State and the Head of Government. The Executive President was elected in 1990 to a term of 6 years. The President appoints both vice presidents and the rest of the Cabinet, who serve at his pleasure. There are many small political parties. However, the Political Parties Finance Act inhibits their growth by providing government funding only to those parties that have more than 15 parliamentary seats, effectively giving all public funding to the ruling party. The 1994-95 budget provided $4.2 million for ZANU-PF. The net result of several constitutional amendments has been to consolidate the power of the executive branch and limit the M. P.s' ability to go against the party line. However, there was a small group of backbenchers in Parliament who vigorously confronted the Government on a number of issues ranging from corruption to government spending. The Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) ruled that both the July and December parliamentary by-elections were free and fair. However, the July by-elections were marred by various unfair practices. There were credible reports that CIO agents intimidated would-be voters in Gwanda North by warning that the infamous "Fifth Brigade" (which left a trail of murder and torture there from 1982 to 1987) would return if they did not vote for ZANU-PF. Rural dwellers reported that government agents warned that they would not be eligible to receive food aid if they supported opposition candidates. There were credible reports that people in several districts in Manicaland were denied food aid unless they could prove that they had registered to vote, or, in at least one case, could produce a ZANU-PF card. The CIO occasionally harassed and threatened opposition party members. In May ZANU-PF Youth League and Women's League supporters attacked the site of a Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) rally, burned a trailer, and beat up 10 ZUM supporters guarding the rally ground. The ruling party provided transportation for the perpetrators to the rally site. After ZANU-PF supporters interfered in a ZANU-Ndonga rally in June, supporters of both groups hurled stones and bottles at each other, and a ZANU-PF member was wounded by an arrow. In July several opposition party leaders called on their supporters to arm themselves. Zimbabwean human rights groups expressed concern that President Mugabe's call for a youth league "door-to-door campaign" would lead to a repeat of 1985 campaign violence when gangs of youths went from house to house demanding that residents produce their party cards. In several incidents in the Midlands and Masvingo, the police fined individuals who threatened oppositionists. In preparation for 1995 parliamentary elections, the Registrar General's office continued to update the voter rolls which were "in a shambles," according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Members of Parliament and opposition party members complained that copies of the voter rolls were not made available to them. In early 1994, the Registrar General refused to allow opposition parties to distribute voter registration forms at their meetings, saying voters needed to come individually to the Registrar General's office or other registration points to register. Opposition parties and human rights groups also complained that some of the ESC's five members, tasked with overseeing the conduct of the campaign and the general election, have not renounced their ties to ZANU-PF. The ESC currently lacks the institutional capacity to supervise the campaign or oversee Zimbabwe's more than 2,000 polling stations. The CCJP noted that during the 1990 elections the ESC acted promptly to deal with irregularities. Women participate in politics without legal restriction. However, Zimbabwean women's groups assert that husbands, particularly in rural areas, commonly force their wives to vote for their candidates. One female Minister of State and three female deputy ministers (none of whom actually sits in the Cabinet) serve at the cabinet level, but of the 150 M. P.'s, only 17 are women. In addition, some critics charge that the existence of women's wings in political parties, notably the ruling party, marginalizes women from mainstream political activities.
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 in Zimbabwe, it monitors their activities closely, in particular the CCJP and ZIMRIGHTS. Other groups that promote human rights include the LRF, the Southern African Federation of the Disabled, and the Southern African Human Rights Foundation. The Government permits the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to operate a regional office in Harare, and it cooperates with the UNHCR and the ICRC to assist Mozambican, South African, and other refugees. 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. However, the Constitution's section on discrimination does not specifically refer to the rights of women.
Since independence the Government has enacted major laws aimed at enhancing women's rights and countering certain traditional practices that discriminate against women. The Legal Age of Majority Act and the Matrimonial Causes Act recognize the capacity of women to act independently of their husbands or fathers to own property. However, while unmarried women may own property in their own names, married women (married under customary not general law) are not allowed to own property jointly with their husbands. In an August speech, President Mugabe labeled joint ownership of property "un-African." Inheritance laws remain unfavorable to widows, especially urban black women who were married under customary law. Although the Government has circulated a draft inheritance law that would address the issue of unfair and unequal distribution of inherited assets, as of year's end no legislative action had been taken on the draft. Divorce and maintenance laws are more favorable toward women, but women generally lackawareness of their rights under the law. Many 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. Among these persistent practices are "kuzvarira," the practice of pledging a young woman to marriage with a partner not of her choosing; "nhaka," the custom of forcing a widow to marry her late husband's brother; "lobola," the customary obligation of a groom to pay a bride price to the parents of a would-be wife; and "ngozi," the customary practice of offering a young girl as compensatory payment in interfamily disputes. In August Parliament criminalized the common practice of refusing to bury a woman until lobola is paid, equating the crime to extortion. Many doctors and hospitals routinely require the husband's consent for women seeking long-term contraception. 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. Domestic violence against women, especially wife beating, is common and crosses all racial and economic lines in Zimbabwe. Women's groups have noted that every police station in Zimbabwe has handled at least one case of a woman killed by her husband. In 1992, 4,437 official complaints of wife battering were filed. The Musasa Project, which specializes in research and counseling on domestic violence, said cultural attitudes are changing, and that wife beating is increasingly considered socially unacceptable. There were 964 reports of rape (the majority involving girls under 14) in 1992, the last year for which police statistics are available. Several active women's rights groups in Zimbabwe, including Women in Law in Southern Africa, the Musasa Project, Women in Law and Development, and the Women's Action Group, concentrate on improving women's knowledge of their legal rights, economic empowerment of women, and combating domestic violence.
The Government enacted the Children's Protection and Adoption Act, the Guardianship of Minors Act, and the Deceased Person's Maintenance Act, to protect the legal rights of minor children. The criminal justice system has special provisions for dealing with juveniles, although there is no juvenile court. 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. However, with the reintroduction of school fees in urban schools and rural secondary schools, enrollment has declined. Incest, long taboo in Zimbabwean society, is increasing. Child abuse, as such, does not appear to be widespread, although there are increasing reports of infanticide and child abandonment. Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health, and it is rarely performed in Zimbabwe. However, according to press reports these initiation rites are still practiced on young girls by the small Remba ethnic group and include infibulation, the most extreme form of FGM. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities. The Shona ethnic group comprises 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 despite legal prohibitions against official discrimination. While schools and churches are all integrated, social interaction among racial groups is still limited. In 1994 Ndebele leaders complained that Matabeleland North and South have not received an adequate share of national development resources for tribal reasons. In addition, the disproportionate number of Shona-speaking teachers and headmasters in Matabeleland schools remained a sensitive issue.
People with Disabilities
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 the Act stipulates that access for disabled persons should be provided in government buildings, few government buildings have been adjusted for the disabled. Disabled people face particularly harsh customary discrimination. According to traditional belief, people with disabilities are considered bewitched and reports of handicapped children being hidden when visitors arrive are common. A disability board was appointed by President Mugabe in 1992 to spearhead equitable distribution of resources to the disabled but met only twice before the Ministry of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare cut off its funding.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Labor Relations Act (LRA) provides private sector workers freedom of association, 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, Zimbabwe's 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 percent of the salaried work force belongs to the 35 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 clash on political and economic issues with increasing frequency as workers feel the effects of the economic structural adjustment program. Although the LRA allows for the formation of multiple national federations, none but the ZCTU exists. Almost all unions are affiliated with the ZCTU; some affiliates, due to internal differences, have withheld their membership fees and are considered in bad standing. 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 (according to Section 3 of the Act) since their conditions of employment are provided for under the Constitution. They are thus constitutionally barred from forming unions, and their associations are likewise forbidden from affiliating with the ZCTU. However, all three organizations have signed memorandums of understanding with the ZCTU to coordinate on areas of mutual interest, which include reform of the LRA to include the public sector. After the passage of the Labor Relations Amendment Act (LRAA) in 1992, the Government circulated copies of a new Labor Act drafted by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The draft is intended to streamline provisions of the LRA while extending its coverage to the public sector. After the third draft, however, the Government shelved any further movement on joining the public and private sectors under one LRA. The LRA 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 and others hold that the existence of worker committees, which were strengthened by the 1992 amendments, dilutes union authority. Nonetheless, the ZCTU grew stronger in 1994 as it responded to the formation of these committees by increasing its organizational efforts on the shop floor. This strengthened its hand in the 1994 collective bargaining cycle, and the Government has appeared less inclined to challenge its authority directly. 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 it." 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 (though in practice this administrative requirement is rarely met). More strikes and work actions occurred in 1994 than in any other year since independence. 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, the Act was silent on the right to bargain collectively. However, 1992 amendments permit worker committees to perform functions normally reserved for trade unions, e.g., negotiating collective agreements and codes of conduct. The worker committees, which are by law not organically part of the unions or the ZCTU, are empowered to negotiate with the management of a particular plant the conditions of labor in the workplace, except for wages. Wage negotiations take place on an industry-wide 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 the Public Service Commission (PSC). Each year, representatives of the PSC (employers) and the PSA (employees) hold consultations on wages and benefits. These consultations result in a recommendation which is forwarded to the MPSLSW. The Minister is not required by law to accept the recommendation and, in fact, in both 1993 and 1994 granted wage increases significantly lower than PSC/PSA recommendations. 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 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, though 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 present the LRT boards are still not fully staffed and face a substantial backlog. Parliament passed the Export Processing Zones Act in October. The Act provides that the LRA shall not apply to workers in export processing zones. The ZCTU protested this provision to President Mugabe, who promised to investigate. At year's end, no export processing zones had been established.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Compulsory labor is prohibited by law, and there are no reports that it is practiced.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
Zimbabwean 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. While child labor is most prevalent in the agricultural sector, an increasing number of children can be found working in the urban informal sector. There have also been reports of children mining chromium, tin, or gold, either for independent operators or through subcontractors. In the manufacturing sector, minimum age requirements are generally enforced by the MPSLSW. Recent ILO investigations to review progress in this area indicated that these conditions still hold true.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The maximum legal workweek 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 specify minimum wages, hours, holidays, and required safety measures. In recent years, as part of its 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, however, many such workers are remunerated below the minimum wage. The minimum monthly wage for domestics and gardeners of $25 (Z$202.41) is the de facto minimum wage for Zimbabwe. The employer often provides 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, and workers in those sectors covered under collective bargaining agreements received 1994 wage increases averaging only two-thirds of the 25-percent inflation rate. Minimum monthly wage rates for 1994 ranged from $30 (Z$241.50) in the agricultural sector to $62 to 75 (Z$500 - Z$600) 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. Safety in the workplace is a continuing problem, exacerbated by an inadequate number of government safety inspectors. Furthermore, 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.