Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1998 - Zimbabwe

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 26 February 1999
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1998 - Zimbabwe, 26 February 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa60c.html [accessed 19 December 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.
President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) have dominated the legislative and executive branches of the 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. Late in 1997, the Parliament amended the election laws to allow for increased access to funding for opposition candidates; these changes went into effect in early 1998. The judiciary is independent, but the Government occasionally refuses to abide by court decisions.

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 based on agricultural production. The country has abundant arable land, minerals, good infrastructure, a diversified manufacturing sector, an educated and disciplined work force, and a strong tourism sector. Its chief hard currency earners are tobacco, gold, ferroalloys, nickel, and tourism. The economy suffered from poor economic management, government corruption, high inflation and high real interest rates, a dramatic slide in foreign exchange values, high budget deficits, and high unemployment. Over half the population relies on subsistence agriculture. The formal sector unemployment rate exceeds 40 percent. During the year, the economy declined and real disposable fell due to high inflation and higher imported input costs. Throughout the year, the Government faced increased pressure from urban labor groups and rural low-income groups as the standard of living dropped. In November protests and riots broke out over a 67 percent increase in the price of gasoline and cooking fuel. Rioters burned several vehicles.

The Government respected some of the human rights of its citizens; however, there was a worsening in some areas, and significant problems remained, including incidents of police killings, torture, and brutality, harsh prison conditions, arbitrary pretrial detention, security force intimidation of opposition party candidates and their supporters, failure to fully investigate assaults on opposition candidates, restrictions on academic freedom, infringements on citizens' privacy, and, despite the new electoral law, restrictions on opposition party financing. The political process remained heavily tilted in favor of the ruling party.

As a result of widespread irregularities in the voters' rolls and charges of election fraud by opposition candidates, the High Court ordered that a previously disqualified independent candidate be allowed to contest a Harare city council ward seat. The High Court subsequently barred the Registrar General from holding those elections until the rolls were reviewed. By year's end, those Harare city council ward elections had not been held.

Supporters of the ZANU-PF candidate in the February by-election in Chitungwiza attacked independent Member of Parliament (M.P.) Margaret Dongo with a gasoline bomb. The police failed to arrest any individual on the scene, and the Government has not pursued a case against the suspect identified by Dongo. Although the small independent press was increasingly open and critical of the Government, there was some self-censorship. The electronic media--the major source of information for most citizens--remained totally under government control, and strict

anti-defamation laws led to self-censorship. The three privately-licensed television stations faced financial difficulties and merged into one station under the name Joy TV. It remains restricted to broadcasting on a channel leased from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation; creation of an independent transmission facility is restricted under the Broadcasting Act. 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 there were reports of the use of excessive force. Government sources reported that at least eight persons were shot and killed during the January 19-22 food riots. The largely spontaneous riots were sparked by price increases on basic commodities such as bread, maize meal, and cooking oil, against the background of an overall declining standard of living for the average citizen. In one widely-publicized case, police shot a 12-year-old girl from Gweru on January 20, while she was fleeing from a demonstration on which the security forces had opened fire. At year's end, no police suspect had been identified, and the case remained under investigation. Local human rights organizations set up a legal defense fund for the victims and called for the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry to investigate citizen complaints of human rights abuses arising from the food riots. By year's end, no security officers had been arrested or charged with those deaths nor had the Government set up an investigation.

In November police fired into a crowd protesting fuel price increases in the city of Mutare. One person was killed. The officer who fired the shot was not prosecuted (see Section 1.c.).

Harsh prison conditions contributed to the average of 25 deaths per month; most persons died from acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), according to 1996 statistics, the latest available (see Section 1.c.).

By year's end, the Government had not responded formally to the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) report on atrocities committed during the 1982-87 Matabeleland crisis. However, in March Minister without portfolio Eddison Zvogbo apologized, in his personal capacity and in a symbolic departure from government practice, for the atrocities committed by government forces in Matabeleland.

In November the murder of a white farmer coincided with the occupation of her farm by squatters. Police arrested a former employee, but squatters were not believed to be responsible for the crime.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The Constitution prohibits torture, and cruel and inhuman treatment. The issuance of the ZRP service charter and improved training has resulted in better treatment of suspects and the public. However, the ZRP showed poor training in riot control; it used live ammunition, tear gas, and clubs to disperse crowds during the food riots. There were widespread reports that at least 10 persons were shot and injured during these riots; the victims deny that they were engaged in any criminal activity at the time. In addition, Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa called in the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) during the riots, and authorized them to use firearms to restore order, even when there was no imminent threat to life.

ZRP/ZNA actions resulted in a number of injuries to demonstrators and bystanders including a child in his Harare home and a woman in Mabvuku whose arm had to be amputated. There were several other credible cases of woundings from stray police bullets.

There were credible reports that the ZRP beat and tortured detainees during the food riots. In one case, police reportedly beat a woman in a Mabvuku home and in another tied loaded tear gas canisters to the heads and between the legs of 2 men who the police believed were withholding information concerning the burning of a police car during the riots. In still another case, police allegedly beat persons they believed to be University of Zimbabwe students who the ZRP considered to be agitators during the food riots. An officer in at least 1 Mabvuku police station admitted beating an innocent 19-year-old man, who is seeking monetary compensation.

Although the ZRP service charter and improved training generally have resulted in better treatment of suspects and the public, there were several credible reports that police beat suspected looters at their homes and at police stations during questioning. Police were accused by the victims of using whips, hoses, and batons to beat the victims. Several of the victims sought medical treatment for serious ZRP-inflicted injuries and reported their cases to the police and human rights organizations. There were reports that the police clubbed students in March and used tear gas in June to disrupt demonstrators at the University of Zimbabwe (see Section 2.a.).

Following the Government's announcement on October 31 of a 67 percent increase in fuel prices, street demonstration and rioting broke out in several major cities. Angry crowds burnt several vehicles and threatened commuter omnibus drivers who had increased their fares in response to the higher fuel prices. Police arrested 27 persons in Bulawayo on November 2 for destruction of public property, including the destruction of 19 vehicles. Twenty persons were injured during the street violence but no charges of police brutality were filed.

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. Overcrowding and poor sanitation aggravated outbreaks of cholera, diarrhea, and AIDS-related illnesses. Government prison service authorities reviewed overcrowding in prisons during a July workshop and concluded that exposure to HIV/AIDS was a major cause of deaths in detention. However, no exact figures were available, and prison authorities called for more research to address this growing problem, with some arguing for early release of such terminally ill prisoners. The Government has established a successful community service sentencing program to try to alleviate prison overcrowding. The Legal Resource Foundation, in cooperation with the prison service, has established a human rights training program for prison officials. 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. Warrants of arrest issued by the courts are required except in cases of serious crimes or where there is the risk of evidence disappearing. The Ministry of Home Affairs paid $112,500 (Z$4.5 million) in damages for wrongful arrest cases in 1996, the last year for which statistics were available.

Although a preliminary hearing before a magistrate is required within 48 hours of an arrest (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. However, 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.

During the January food riots, police arrested over 200 persons for alleged looting or public disorder. There were numerous credible reports of forced confessions, torture, and physical abuse (see Section 1.c.). Many appeals were filed against the resulting convictions. In Harare the looting suspects initially were denied bail, which the Law Society of Zimbabwe successfully challenged as being based on political considerations, not the law. At year's end, many of those cases still were pending.

Originally promulgated 30 years ago and widely used during the Ian Smith regime to silence political opponents, the Official Secrets Act and the Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA) grant the Government a wide range of legal powers. LOMA gives extensive powers to the police, the Minister of Home Affairs and the President to prosecute anyone for political and security crimes that are not clearly defined.

In December 1997, opposition M.P. The Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole was convicted and sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment under the LOMA for conspiring to assassinate President Mugabe in 1995. In January Sithole filed an appeal, and the sentencing judge called for a pardon in light of Sithole's age, poor health, and evidence of the Government's prior notice of the assassination plan. At year's end, Sithole remained free on bail pending a ruling on his appeal.

The Government proposed new legislation to replace the LOMA--the Public Order and Security Bill (POSB). However, the new draft bill, while significantly amended from the 1997 version following strong public protests from human rights and legal organizations, contained several negative elements similar to the LOMA, including vague definitions of political and security crimes, harsh penalties for failure to report the acts of others, and restrictions on freedom of assembly, speech, and association. The POSB passed Parliament but as of year's end, the President had not signed this legislation. Consequently, the LOMA remained in effect.

According to the Government, the total prison population was reduced to 18,000 from 22,000 in 1996, due in large part to alternative sentencing under the community service program for youth offenders. The Government reports that 6,000 prisoners are pretrial detainees. Detainees spent an average of 6 months incarcerated before their trials because of a critical shortage of magistrates and court interpreters.

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. However, on occasion the executive branch refuses to abide by judicial decisions.

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.

Judges are appointed for life and can be removed from the bench only for gross misconduct. They can not be 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. Military courts deal with disciplinary or

court-martial proceedings. Police courts, which can sentence a police officer to confinement to camp or demotion, handle disciplinary and misconduct cases. Trials in both these latter courts meet internationally accepted standards for fair trials; defendants in these courts have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court. All levels of the judiciary often make rulings unpopular with the Government.

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 choosing. However, well over 90 percent of defendants in magistrates' courts do not have legal representation. In criminal cases, an indigent defendant may apply to have the Government provide an attorney, but this is rarely done and rarely granted. However, in capital cases the Government provides an attorney for all defendants unable to afford one. Litigants in civil cases can request legal assistance from the NGO Legal Resources Foundation. The government-established Citizens Advice Bureau was eliminated due to budget constraints in 1997. 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. However, some High Court judges imposed lenient sentences in some cases of rape and child sexual abuse, and local women's and legal organizations challenged these decisions.

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 had tortured in 1990.

Local legal and human rights organizations strongly criticized the Attorney General for declining to prosecute the Mayor of Chitungwiza, Joseph Macheka, for shooting to death one man and wounding two others who allegedly attempted to rob Macheka's liquor store during the January food riots. Macheka was the successful ruling ZANU-PF party candidate in a contentious mayoral election campaign against an independent. The Attorney General determined that Macheka was acting in self-defense and that prosecution, therefore, was not in the public interest. Legal and human rights critics accused the Attorney General of bowing to political pressure and usurping the function of the court.

Legal and human rights activists continued to criticize the Government's efforts to adopt constitutional amendments detrimental to human rights protections. 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. Amendment 14 (1996), which denies both men and women the right to confer automatic residency on their foreign spouses, was passed in response to a 1994 Supreme Court ruling declaring that women should have the same rights as men to confer residency and citizenship on their spouses (see Section 2.d.). Amendments to the Constitution are not ratified by the public but are subject only to the ZANU-PF-dominated Parliament's approval.

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. Human rights groups are concerned that Amendment 14 erodes these constitutional rights by repealing Section 11 of the Constitution which specifies protection for the right to the privacy of one's home and from the compulsory acquisition of property without compensation. Although Government authorities generally respect citizens' right to privacy and violations are subject to legal sanction, it is widely known that the Government sometimes monitors private correspondence and telephones, particularly international communications. Police routinely engaged in unauthorized searches of homes during the January food riots, seeking evidence or looted property.

The need for land reform is accepted almost universally; however, there are problems with implementation of the 1992 Land Acquisition Act (Land Act). Under the Land Act, farmers whose lands have been designated for acquisition may appeal only the amount of compensation, not the initial decision to acquire their farms. President Mugabe repeatedly has said the Government would not compensate for land, but only for improvements, a position not sustainable under the act. However, the President reversed that position during the Government's September 9-11 land conference for international donors, when government ministers promised to abide by the act. In the past, the act was implemented largely along racial lines; the Government stated that black-owned commercial farms would not be subject to acquisition. However, some of the original 1,461 farms designated in November 1997 for compulsory land acquisition, many of which remain on the revised list, are owned by the black, urban elite. In some cases, land apparently was targeted for acquisition to achieve political goals.

By year's end, approximately 400 farms were removed from the list of those to be acquired following the filing of 1,420 administrative appeals with the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture. In November the Government issued notices that it owned 841 farms, leading to a number of farm in the east being invaded by impoverished blacks some of whom were armed. The Government called for the squatters to vacate the farms they had occupied in order to proceed with an orderly resettlement program. The Government stated that its resettlement program would begin with 118 primarily underutilized and derelict farms offered by commercial farmers. By year's end, the Government had resettled only 4 of the designated farms, and it continued to send unclear messages about its resettlement program. On one hand, President Mugabe made statements during the year that the Government would confiscate farms and pay only for improvements to the land (for example, buildings and irrigation systems), but not for the land itself. In December Mugabe stated that the Government would take farms and issue IOU's for payment at a later date. On the other hand, senior ministers stated that the resettlement program would proceed along the path outlined during the September land donors conference. However, government officials continue to avoid any detailed discussion about the issue of compensation. At year's end, the resettlement process remained mired in bureaucratic and financial gridlock.

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 the Government, there is some degree of self-censorship in private media and a high degree in the government-controlled press. For example, government-owned media reported that the March 3-4 national "stayaway" called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was a failure, despite widespread evidence of mass participation. Self-censorship is aggravated by antidefamation laws that make no distinction between public and private persons. In addition an extremely broad Official Secrets Act makes it a crime to divulge "any information acquired in the course of official duties."

The Government showed a modest increase in tolerance for private media criticism of official corruption during the Chidyausiku Commission's investigation into fraud and malfeasance in the management of the war victims compensation fund. However, the Commission's report, which was submitted to the Government in July, was not made public by year's end.

In March an outspoken ZANU-PF parliamentarian, Dzikimai Mavhaire, was removed from his position as Masvingo provincial chairman and barred from holding any party office for 2 years by the party's politburo. While debating in the legislature, Mavhaire called for presidential term limits and said that President Mugabe had to go. President Mugabe threatened to discipline the Speaker of Parliament, Cyril Ndebele, for subsequently ruling that Mavhaire had legislative immunity for any statements made in Parliament. The party did not punish the speaker, but the party's disciplinary actions against Mavhaire remain in effect. In March the Information Minister Chen Chimutengwende told the state-controlled broadcasting service and newspapers not to report any statements or activities by the ZCTU.

The major print media (seven English language newspapers and one local-language tabloid) belong to the Mass Media Trust, a holding company heavily influenced by the ruling party. The Ministry of Information controls the Zimbabwe Inter-Africa News Agency wire service. A new consortium, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), backed by foreign (60 percent) and domestic (40 percent) investors, has launched the first of five new weeklies tailored to community-level readership.

The Government controls the only two daily newspapers, the Chronicle and the Herald; the ANZ delayed its plans to launch a new countrywide daily until 1999. The small independent press consists primarily of three weekly and three monthly magazines. They carefully monitor government policies and open their pages to opposition critics. Other minor independent publications exist with fewer than 3,000 subscribers.

All radio and television channels are government owned and controlled. Following a Supreme Court ruling that the Government's monopoly on telecommunications was unconstitutional because it interfered with the right to freedom of expression, the Government granted a broadcasting license to private television station Joy Television (Joy TV). However, Joy TV's independence has been questioned because of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Commission's (ZBC) apparent favoritism both in granting Joy TV a license, which was denied to earlier bidders, and in speculation over possible ZBC editorial control of Joy TV programming. President Mugabe's nephew, Leo Mugabe, reportedly has financial ties to Joy TV.

Books and films are subject to review by the Zimbabwe Board of Censors. A film on the liberation struggle, which the National War Veteran's Association claimed was offensive and which was seized by the police in 1996, is now publicly available.

The University of Zimbabwe (UZ) Amendment Act and the National Council for Higher Education Act curtail academic freedom by restricting the independence of universities, making them subject to government influence, and extending the disciplinary powers of the university authorities against staff and students. Police used tear gas on campus and arrested several UZ students during May and June after students protested government delays in disbursement of their subsidies, and alleged corruption in the administration of campus housing and food services, and nepotism in the foreign student sponsorship program.

The University closed in June following 3 days of violent student protests against the new fee structures; a show of solidarity with UZ classmates disrupted classes at both the Harare Polytechnic and the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo. The UZ's new executive policy of appointed rather than elected deans of faculty caused further dissatisfaction among students. The UZ reopened for continuing students only on October 25 but at year's end was not scheduled to admit new students until February 1999. In April police shot and injured a student protestor (see Section 1.c.).

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right of assembly; however, the Government imposed some restrictions in practice. Permits are not required for meetings or demonstrations. The Government was criticized sharply by human rights and labor leaders for its use of excessive force countrywide to restore law and order, following the January food riots. At least eight persons were killed and many were injured as a result of the police and military crackdown against suspected looters (see Sections 1.a. and 1.c.).

UZ students also accused the Government of encouraging the excessive use of force by the ZRP, leading to the April 23 shooting in the neck of a UZ student during campus protests (see Section 1.c.). The officer responsible for the shooting was suspended. Police disrupted student demonstrations in March, May and June (see Section 2.a.).

In October police attempted to stop a demonstration in support of constitutional reform during which some participants also tried to protest the country's intervention in the Congo. Police in Harare stopped the National Constitutional Assembly's (NCA) October 31 peaceful demonstration in support of a new constitution amid rumors that the event would turn into a protest against military involvement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Demonstrations also occurred in other cities, with small numbers of persons participating. The police initially gave the NCA permission to hold the planned peaceful rally but rescinded permission on the day of the march following a series of press articles alleging that the march would include antiwar protestors. The NCA obtained a court order and held a generally peaceful demonstration in January 1999 directed at raising public awareness of constitutional reform issues.

The Constitution provides for freedom of association for political and nonpolitical organizations, including a broad spectrum of economic, social and professional groups, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The formation of unions and political parties is not restricted. Organizations generally are free of governmental interference as long as their activities are viewed as nonpolitical.

In a case brought by a women's nongovernmental organization (NGO), the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional those sections of the Private Voluntary Organizations Act of 1995, which had empowered the Minister of Social Welfare, Labor, and Public Service 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." Prior to the Supreme Court's ruling, several new NGO's decided to set up their organizations as "associations" connected with established NGO's so that their executive bodies would not be subject to government interference.

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.

In response to a 1994 Supreme Court ruling that Zimbabwe's law allowing men, but not women, to confer residency rights on their foreign born spouses was discriminatory and unconstitutional, the Government proposed a constitutional amendment establishing the practice in the Constitution. After an outcry from civic, particularly women's, organizations, the Government withdrew the amendment and proposed a revised bill which the Parliament passed in 1996. The new law allows neither men nor women to confer citizenship on their foreign born spouses automatically. At year's end, the Ministry of Home Affairs had not implemented the new immigration regulation.

The Government cooperates with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. Zimbabwe provides first asylum. According to the Government, 130 asylum seekers were given refugee status, and at least five persons were denied first asylum during the year. There were no reports of forced expulsion of those having a valid claim to refugee status. There were reportedly 941 refugees in Zimbabwe from more than 20 countries; the largest groups consisted of 199 Rwandans, 148 Burundians, 115 Sudanese, 113 Congolese (Democratic Republic of the Congo), 88 Somalis, and 73 Angolans.

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

Although theoretically citizens have the legal right to change their Government democratically; the political process continued to be tilted in favor of the ruling party. Two legislative changes went into effect lowering the bar for opposition candidates to run for office and increasing the size of the electorate. The Political Parties Finance Act (PPFA) no longer based government financial grants on the number of members already in Parliament, but on a percentage of votes received in the last general election, with a minimum of 5 percent required.

However, many opposition candidates continue to criticize the threshold as being too high, and only a few contested the September rural district council elections. There was minimal voter turnout for those elections and voting was delayed by one day in parts of Chipinge, where ZANU-PF does not have a stronghold, due to the absence of voting materials and irregularities in the voters' rolls. Independent election observers from a democracy NGO reported widespread fraud and intimidation in those elections where independents challenged ZANU-PF candidates.

The unsuccessful independent Chitungwiza mayoral candidate, Fidelis Mhashu, petitioned the High Court on December 28, 1997 to have the election results thrown out, alleging that the election was not conducted in accordance with the Electoral and Urban Council Acts; that the voters roll used was defective; that his supporters suffered widespread intimidation; and that his votes were miscounted. On December 3, the judge dismissed the case ruling that Mhashu did not explain sufficiently why he waited 3 months after the election of file his case.

President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party remained the dominant political force within the country. President Mugabe won reelection in March 1996 with little opposition in an election considered generally free and fair by hundreds of NGO monitors. In the 1995 parliamentary general elections, ZANU-PF captured 117 of the 120 popularly elected seats. The 10 chiefs who sit as Members of Parliament (M.P.) are elected by their peers. The President also appoints 8 provincial governors, who sit as M.P.s, and 12 nonconstituency M.P.s. All 30 of these persons are ZANU-PF members. Constitutional Amendment 9 authorized the President to unilaterally declare a state of public emergency for a period of up to 14 days. Amendment 10 granted the President sole power to dissolve Parliament and to appoint or remove a vice-president and any minister or deputy minister. That Amendment also allowed the President to appoint 20 M.P.s as detailed above. The net result of these constitutional amendments has been to consolidate the power of the executive branch and to limit the independence of M.P.s.

There is no effective parliamentary opposition and the legislature remained subordinate to the executive branch. However, the Parliamentary Reform Committee released a report in May, following more than a year of nationwide consultations, which recommended significant changes in key areas. It proposed that Parliament be given greater powers and resources to enhance public participation in government and increase legislative oversight of the executive branch. However, at year's end the executive branch had not responded to the report, although the Parliament proceeded with those recommendations that were within its power to carry out unilaterally. There are many small opposition parties, but their growth is inhibited by a variety of factors, including the Political Parties Finance Act (PPFA) (sections of which the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 1997), the Government's virtual monopoly of the electronic media, and credible reports of security force harassment of opposition and independent candidates and their supporters. In addition to serious institutional problems, the opposition parties' lack of organization and leadership played a significant role in their poor electoral showing.

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 all of the country's polling stations. Nor do commissioners have the executive authority to order that an irregularity be corrected. Despite an attempt to computerize the voters' roll, it contains a very large number of redundancies or errors, including misspellings, multiple entries, and names of deceased. Rural district council elections were held in September based on the national voters' roll despite strong opposition criticism of inaccuracies in the national election registry.

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 of the 150 M.P.s are women, including the Deputy Speaker of Parliament. Three cabinet ministers with portfolios, three ministers of state, and three deputy ministers are women. 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 Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZIMRIGHTS). Other groups that promote human rights include the Legal Resources Foundation, the Southern African Foundation of the Disabled, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the Child and the Law Project, the Musasa Project, the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, the Women's Action Group, Women and Law in Southern Africa, Women in Law and Development in Africa, Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network, Women and AIDS Support Network, and the Human Rights Research and Documentation Trust of Southern Africa. These NGOs worked on human rights and democracy issues including lobbying for revision of the Public Order and Security Bill, increasing poor women's access to the courts, raising awareness of the abuse of children, and eliminating irregularities in voter rolls. The Foundation for Democracy in Zimbabwe (FODEZI) was established in July 1997 as a watchdog organization to support independent candidates. Amnesty International, Transparency International, and the International Committee of the Red Cross operate in Zimbabwe. The Government does not discourage representatives of 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.

Women

Domestic violence against women, especially wife beating, is common and crosses all racial and economic lines. It extends throughout the country, and at times results in death. According to Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), domestic violence accounts for more than 60 percent of murder cases tried in the Harare High Court. The Musasa Project, a women's rights organization, established the first shelter in Zimbabwe for victims of domestic violence in 1997. This Harare-area shelter housed over 200 women throughout that year. Human rights groups noted that increased training improved police community relations officers' handling of domestic violence cases. The media increasingly reported incidents of rape, incest, and sexual abuse of women and children.

There was a significant increase in the number of reported rape cases countrywide; the majority of cases involved minor victims and family member abusers. Police in the Midlands Province recorded a 43 percent increase in reported juvenile rape cases, from 60 to 86, in the first quarter of the year; police in Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo, reported that an average of one woman was raped daily in that city between January and May, with one-third of the victims between the ages of 1 and 15 years. One hundred and seventy persons had appeared in the Harare courts for rape as of June. There were approximately 2,000 cases of rape reported in the first 6 months of 1997, up from 1,400 cases in the first half of 1996. Women's groups and the police believe the actual number is much higher, but the majority of cases go unreported because of the social stigma of rape. When cases come to court, lengthy sentences for rape and wife beating are generally imposed. However, a "binding over" order (an order to appear in court to respond to an accusation of violent behavior) is issued based only on actual physical abuse and not on threats of violence. In addition, the courts do not have the power to oust an abusive spouse from a matrimonial home.

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. The literacy rate for women over the age of 15 is estimated to be 80 percent while the male rate is about 90 percent. The 1998 United Nations Development Program's Human Development Report noted that in most regions of the country girls are underrepresented relative to boys in secondary schools. Despite legal prohibitions, women still are vulnerable to entrenched customary practices, including the practice of pledging a young woman to marriage with a partner not of her choosing; the custom of forcing a widow to marry her late husband's brother; and the custom of offering a young girl as compensatory payment in interfamily disputes.

The Legal Age of Majority Act (LAMA) 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. Nevertheless, during the September land conference, women's rights organizations effectively lobbied the Government to agree to create legislation giving married women joint spousal title to property offered under the resettlement program.

Women's groups successfully lobbied legislators to abandon efforts by some parliamentarians to repeal the LAMA. Several male parliamentarians had argued for the reversal of the LAMA because of its perceived threat to parents' ability to choose marriage partners for their daughters. The Administration of Estates Amendment Act, which came into effect in October 1997, removes inheritance laws unfavorable to widows. Women's groups have praised the act as a major step toward ending the unfair and unequal distribution of inherited assets for women. At year's end, the new inheritance amendment was awaiting the President's signature to become law. Divorce and maintenance laws are favorable toward women, but women generally lack awareness of their rights under the law.

Research conducted by the Training and Research Support Centre (a Harare-based NGO) revealed that one in three working women at all levels were subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, as defined by Zimbabwean legal experts. The October 1996 to February 1997 study was based on questionnaires from 528 working women.

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, including WILDAF, the Musasa Project, the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers' Association, 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. Groups that focus on the issues of protection of women against domestic violence and sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS included the Women and AIDS Support Network and Musasa Project. There is a gender affairs office in the Office of the President headed by Minister of State Oppah Rushesha.

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. However, budget cuts and the lack of adequate attention to AIDS prevention are eroding the Government's capacity to address children's needs in these areas. As a result of the AIDS epidemic, the number of orphans is projected to rise quickly. From a small number in 1990, there were an estimated 150,000 orphans in 1995, growing to a projected 543,000 in 2000 and 918,000 in 2005. This will put a tremendous strain on both formal and traditional social systems to cope with the exploding problem. At the household level, there is an increased burden on the extended family, which has traditional responsibility for caring for orphans. Many grandparents are left caring for the young, and in some cases children or adolescents are heading families. At the provincial and national levels, the governments are saddled with increasing demands for community orphan projects, orphanages, health care and school fees. The number of street children, with the related problems of theft, street violence, drug use and violent death, is increasing.

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. 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. About 93 percent of children reach grade 5. 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.

There are an estimated 12,000 homeless street children in Zimbabwe, many of them the children of former Mozambican refugees or AIDS orphans. The number of incidents of child abuse, including incest (long taboo in Zimbabwean society), infanticide, child abandonment, and rape is increasing. It is not known yet whether the statistics reflect the fact that more cases are actually occurring or only that more are being reported. There are reports of child labor (see Section 6.d.). The Ministry of Justice's Vulnerable Witnesses Committee established victim-friendly courts (VFC) in 1997 to improve the judicial system's handling of child victims of rape and sexual abuse. There was a large volume of rape cases in the Harare VFC, which led to calls by children's rights' advocates for additional courts to be established in surrounding areas. 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

President Mugabe appointed a disability activist to Parliament in 1995 to represent the needs of the disabled. 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 Government buildings should be accessible to disabled persons, for budgetary reasons this is rarely implemented. 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 2 percent, and other ethnic groups 2 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 legally integrated, social interaction among racial groups is rare. Racial tensions have been sharpened by the Government's land reform program, which has threatened to compulsorily acquire primarily white-owned commercial farms without compensation. There were sporadic illegal occupations of white-owned farms by landless peasants. Although intertribal relations are generally very good, the disproportionate number of Shona speaking teachers and headmasters in Matabeleland schools remained a sensitive issue. Members of the Ndebele community criticized the Government's unequal distribution of national resources and the Government's failure to compensate victims of the 1980's Matabeleland killings. Some Ndebele youths in Bulawayo protested the 10th anniversary celebrations of the 1987 Unity Accord (ending predominately Ndebele-supported PF-ZAPU and Shona-backed ZANU political fighting after independence), accusing the Government of marginalizing the Ndebele ethnic group.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The 1985 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 that 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).

Approximately 20 percent of the formal sector work force belongs to the 33 unions that form the ZCTU. ZCTU officers are elected by 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 usually does not consult either the ZCTU or employers before implementing policy decisions that affect the workplace. This lack of consultation often results in reactions that disrupt labor relations, thereby promoting uncertainty and even strikes.

Following the Government's efforts in December 1997 to impose significant income and other tax increases without consultation, the ZCTU organized a nationwide, 1-day work stoppage that month, and a 2-day "stayaway" in March. These were the two most successful labor actions in the country's history. The ZCTU also led two successful stayaways on November 11 and 18 to protest a 67 percent increase in fuel prices, and to demand a 20 percent pay increase for private and public sector workers. In a period of serious and prolonged economic decline, the ZCTU has gained widespread support at the forefront of an energized labor movement. Despite ZCTU Secretary General Morgan Tsvangirai's insistence that his organization seeks only to protect workers' rights, many citizens view the ZCTU as the only effective political opposition to the ruling ZANU-PF.

The LRA allows for the formation of multiple national federations. A second umbrella labor organization, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU), was launched in October 1996 with the stated purpose of providing an alternative of the ZCTU. The new organization states that its goal is to work in collaboration with the Government, and it is openly critical of the ZCTU. The ZFTU's origin, leadership, and membership remained unclear at year's end. Although key personnel have not been identified publicly, most observers believe that they are principally former senior ZCTU leaders, some of whom were involuntarily separated from that organization. No ZFTU activity has been observed.

Public servants and their associations, the Public Service Association (PSA), the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), and the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA), are not covered by the provisions of the LRA. Instead, their conditions of employment are provided for under the Constitution. Although civil servants constitutionally are barred from forming unions, in 1995 ZIMTA stated its intention to affiliate with the ZCTU and the PSA. All public servants are deemed essential and are prohibited from striking.

Under the threat of a 5-day nationwide strike from the ZCTU, President Mugabe agreed in early September to an unprecedented meeting of his senior cabinet officials, employers, and ZCTU representatives to negotiate the repeal of tax increases scheduled for the end of the year. This was the first time since independence that labor negotiations had taken place on such a large scale. On September 9, Mugabe's Cabinet announced tax cuts to which the Government had agreed earlier, including a sales tax rollback, the elimination of 5 percent economic development levy on salaries and wages, a shift in income tax categories, and the postponement of implementation of a proposed 15 percent tax on pension fund earnings. Workers viewed this agreement as a great success for the ZCTU and a concession by the Government. However, by the end of September, high inflation and significant devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar had eroded the tax rollback gains.

Under pressure from the ZCTU and the civil servants associations, the Government strongly encouraged private sector employers and workers in major industries to negotiate salary increases in their respective national employment councils (NECs). The Government itself negotiated with civil servants (primarily through the PSA, which represents approximately half of the civil servants), for a pay raise. As a result of the new empowerment of the labor movement, employers were more willing to negotiate. By year's end, most NECs had approved at least a 20 percent increase for private sector workers, and civil servants received a 25 percent pay increase.

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." The authority to reclassify a previously nonessential service as essential was not used in 1997 or 1998. However, President Mugabe issued a ban on most collective job actions on November 27.

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. The Government often has declared strikes illegal on the basis of failure to give timely notice. 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. There were no reports that this occurred in 1998. Relatively few industry-specific strikes occurred, as employers were more willing to negotiate with the newly empowered labor movement. From January to September, new wage agreements were concluded in 16 industrial sectors, resulting in a 34 percent increase over the average basic wage for all sectors of $11.25 (Z$450) per month.

In November a one-day national strike brought much of the country to a standstill. Mobs of rioters burned cars and an army truck. In Harare most factories and businesses closed down (see Section 1.a.).

In November Mugabe used his presidential powers to make it illegal for unions or employers to stage collective action to apply pressure on the Government to change laws. The Government can outlaw a union if it defies the ban and assess fines of up to $2,500 (Z$100,000). The Government also banned minibus operators from "facilitating" illegal collective actions.

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.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The LRA provides workers with the right to organize. As originally written, this act was silent on the right to bargain collectively. However, the 1992 LRAA permits unions to bargain collectively over wages. Worker committees, which by law are not organizationally part of the unions or the ZCTU, are empowered to negotiate with the management of a particular plant on the conditions of labor and codes of conduct in the workplace, except for wages. The Labor Relations Tribunal (LRT) had 1,200 cases pending in September, some of which have been awaiting a hearing for more than 7 years.

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 that it believes would harm the economy. However, it does 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, such as 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 that 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. There were some reports that firms designated excessive numbers of employees as being in managerial positions in order to exclude them from the collective bargaining exercises.

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 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 utilized in practice.

The LRAA streamlined the procedure for adjudicating disputes by strengthening the LRT. Labor relations officers hear a dispute; their decision may be appealed to regional labor relations officers, after which 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.

The Export Processing Zones Act states the LRA shall not apply to workers in export processing zones. The ZCTU has negotiated directly with EPZ employers to allow some unions in the EPZ, although their number and level of activity remain low.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Government prohibits forced and bonded labor by children. There were no reports that it occurred (see Section 6.d.). Compulsory labor is prohibited by law, and there were no reports that it was practiced.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The Government prohibits forced and bonded labor by children. There were no reports that it occurred. Legislation passed in March 1997 bans employment of children under the age of 12 and restricts employment of those between the ages of 12 and 17 to light work during school holidays for periods not exceeding 6 hours per day. Light work is defined as work not likely to prejudice the education, health, safety, rest or social, physical, or mental development of a child. All hazardous employment, overtime and night shift work is banned for those under the age of 18. However, there is little to no enforcement of these laws. Children work in the agricultural sector, and there were reports that children worked as domestics and as car-watchers on the streets. Although schooling is not compulsory, over 90 percent of children attend school through grade 5 (see Section 5).

Child labor in the formal agricultural sector, such as on tea and coffee plantations, reportedly involves children working in the fields after school during the planting and harvesting seasons and full-time during school holidays. Long hours are common. Children often work alongside their parents and their working conditions approximate those of adults. While some form of child labor or child work on large commercial farms is widespread, agricultural organizations maintain that the labor performed is not exploitative, involuntary, contrary to law, or outside of cultural norms that allow children to engage in field work with their families. Anecdotal evidence suggests some school schedules and calendars are tailored to allow children to work in the fields during busy farming periods. Economic hardship often makes child labor imperative for families to make ends meet.

The AIDS epidemic now effects 20 to 25 percent of the population, and the rate of infection is accelerating. As a result, more children are forced to work in a variety of sectors to fill the income gap left by ill or deceased relatives. The number of children in adoptive homes or living on the streets is increasing rapidly. The number of AIDS orphans is expected to reach 543,000 by the year 2000, and 910,000 by the year 2005. The deteriorating economy also is forcing more children to work. Although child labor in the agricultural, domestic, and informal sectors increasingly is discussed, the Government and NGOs have been unable to gather concrete data on the number of cases.

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 on an industry-specific basis. 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 is approximately $12.50 to 15.00 (Z$500 to Z$600) and is the de facto minimum wage for other workers. 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 for a worker and family. The ILO pegs Zimbabwe's food poverty datum line at $100 (Z$4,000) per month. However, escalating inflation and substantial devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar significantly reduced the standard of living for most workers. Workers in sectors covered under collective bargaining agreements received wage increases averaging 34 percent following several strikes. Inflation increased steadily, hovering around 30 percent in September, and eroded those gains. 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 inspect routinely workplaces, and must rely on voluntary compliance and reporting by employers.

Many of the basic legal protections do not apply to the vast majority of farm, mine, and domestic workers. Health and safety standards are determined only on an industry-specific basis. Despite the lack of general standards, there was a significant decrease in the number of occupational injuries and deaths. Seventy-five fatal job accidents had been reported as of September, compared with 200 in 1997. Similarly, 4,867 occupational injuries were reported during this same time period, compared with 14,000 in 1997. 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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