U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Zimbabwe

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work 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 several smaller parties. In 1993 they were deeply divided, poorly financed, and faced periodic intimidation by government security forces. The Forum Party was launched in March and quickly became the largest and best organized opposition party. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) is responsible for maintaining law and order. The size of the Police Internal Security and Intelligence (PISI) unit, a branch of the ZRP, was reduced in 1993. The Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) falls under the Ministry of Security. Since 1991 the CIO and PISI have not been permitted to arrest, detain, or interrogate suspects in internal security cases. In the past, the CIO was accused of human rights abuses, including the use of torture; however, there were no new reports of torture by the CIO or the ZRP in 1993. The Air Force and Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) also have intelligence staff structures, which perform a variety of intelligence and security functions. Zimbabwe's economy has strong agricultural and mining sectors and a diversified manufacturing base. The Government remained committed to the Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), despite severe hardships the Program caused average Zimbabweans. Although Zimbabwe began to recover from the effects of the devastating 1991-92 drought, which caused a decline of between 8 and 9 percent in the gross domestic product, the unemployment rate was almost 45 percent. Thousands remained chronically dependent on food support 1 year into a good post-drought agricultural season. Although the need for land reform is widely accepted, the 1992 Land Acquisition Act has been implemented along racial lines. There were several positive developments in 1993; however, human rights abuses continued, notably deplorable prison conditions, police brutality, and some irregularities in local and by-elections. A white paper on the draft inheritance law, which will clarify (particularly women's) inheritance rights, was widely circulated and comment requested from a cross-section of Zimbabweans. Public education and vigorous prosecution reduced the incidence of such traditional practices as refusing to bury a woman's body until her lobola (bride price) is paid and forcing a widow to marry her brother-in-law. Supreme Court instructions directed magistrates to determine for the record that unrepresented defendents fully understand their rights and that mitigating circumstances are considered even if they are not part of the defense. In August, the Minister of Justice announced the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Rights. However, by year's end the Committee had not taken any concrete action. The Government has failed to investigate fully atrocities committed during the "1982-87 Matabeleland Dissident Crisis" or to prosecute fully those involved. In general, the Government was unable or unwilling to try, convict, and punish those responsible for human rights abuses. Prison conditions were deplorable. On occasion the Government acted to restrict freedom of assembly and association, and traditional, often illegal, discrimination against women continued. It used its majority in Parliament to weaken the Bill of Rights, the courts, and the authority of Parliament itself. The Government put checks on Zimbabwe's independent judiciary, and it passed a political parties financing law from which only the ruling party can benefit. There were incidents of intimidation and problems with the voters' rolls in local and by-elections.


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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no confirmed political killings or summary executions by government security forces in 1993. In 1990 a 15-year-old boy, Happy Dhlakama, died mysteriously in police custody. Following inquiries, in July 1993 the Attorney General opened an inquest into Dhlakama's death. An April inquest into the 1992 death of Forum for Democratic Reform Trust (FDRT) official Mthandazo Ndema Ngwenya ruled out foul play and concluded that the accident in which he died was caused by driver negligence. Although rumors still circulate that the Government was involved in the June 1992 fatal car crash of FDRT youth leader Chris Giwa, Zimbabwean human rights groups, except for the FDRT and the political party it spawned, were satisfied that the crash, like Ngwenya's, was an accident and that the investigation of the incident was properly handled. A number of cases raised in the 1992 Human Rights Report were concluded: Flight Lieutenant Michael Banana, son of former President Canaan Banana, was convicted of wrongful death (manslaughter) in the shooting of Donald Kalinda and sentenced to an effective 18 months' imprisonment. In late 1993, he was out on bail pending appeal. Two CIO officers were convicted of attempted murder for the March 1990 shooting of candidate for Parliament Patrick Kombayi and sentenced to 7 years in jail. The judgment was highly critical of the CIO and ZRP, accusing them of biased reporting favoring ZANU-PF. The judgment suggested further investigations were required to determine if Vice President Simon Muzenda's bodyguards and driver should be tried for possible involvement in the shooting. Although the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) came forward with new evidence indicating that Lieutenant Shepard Chisango's June 7, 1991 "fall" from a ZNA vehicle was not an accident, observers considered it unlikely that the Government would reopen the case it dismissed in 1992 for lack of evidence. The Chisango case likely dampens even further any tendency for military officers publicly to denounce corruption in the armed forces. According to Minister of Home Affairs Dumiso Dubengwa, forensic scientists determined that human remains found during construction at CIO headquarters in 1992 were over 40 years old. However, human rights groups suspect that there may be a cover-up. While eyewitnesses report seeing "bodies," the Government first reported the discovery of "bones" and then a "bone." A commission established in 1984 to investigate atrocities committed during the 1982-87 Matabeleland Crisis, the Simplicius Chihambakwe Commission, conducted interviews in Bulawayo for 2 days in mid-1993. According to human rights groups, the information collected in that brief time was so damning that the investigation was suspended. Chihambakwe's report was submitted to President Mugabe but has not been made public. Human rights groups are not optimistic that the investigation will be continued until after Zimbabwe's 1995 parliamentary elections. The Government has declared that victims of the Matabeleland Crisis can now be declared legally dead under the Missing Persons Act, but many victims' relatives are too frightened to come forward. In November the Organization of African Unity's Human Rights Committee reportedly pressed the Government to compensate the victims of the Matabeleland Crisis; Government officials replied that President Mugabe had already declared in October 1992 that no compensation would be paid because any atrocities committed were perpetrated during a "state of war."

b. Disappearance

There were no disappearances in 1993. The man allegedly responsible for the 1990 disappearance of Rashiwe Guzha, her boyfriend and Deputy Director of the CIO Edson Shirihuru, died in July. It is, therefore, unlikely that the case will be 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

In a landmark decision, in June the Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of four death row inmates, ruling that the death sentence, though legally imposed, had been rendered unconstitutional (cruel and inhuman punishment) by the long delay between conviction and planned execution dates and the harsh, degrading conditions of confinement. The Government accepted the ruling and went on to commute the death sentences of 32 other long-time residents of death row. Within months, however, Constitutional Amendment 13, declaring, inter alia, that long delays in the carrying out of sentences do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, was passed by Parliament. There were no credible reports of torture in 1993. However, the family of Nhlanhla Dlodlo demanded an inquest into his death. The family alleges Dlodlo was beaten to death in police custody. The Government did not actively pursue allegations that torture was used in the past; no CIO or ZRP officials were prosecuted for such abuses in 1993. Police brutality remained a problem. In several police shooting incidents in 1993, the police launched their own investigation, called on witnesses from the public to come forward, and charged officers involved with wrongful death (manslaughter). One was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in February, and several others remained in custody at year's end. In an effort to professionalize the police force, the ZRP extended its 6-month training course for recruits to 2 years. In 1993 the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) worked on the design of a legal and human rights syllabus to be incorporated into the recruits' training curriculum. The LRF also conducted human rights training workshops for senior police officers and planned to conduct similar workshops for the police rank and file in 1994. In addition there were workshops for community relations officers on dealing with cases of rape and wife beating. Overcrowding is a serious problem in Zimbabwean prisons. In September Minister of Justice, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa confirmed that 223 prisoners died in the first 8 months of the year, primarily from outbreaks of cholera, diarrhea, and AIDS-related illnesses aggravated by squalid, overcrowded conditions. A CCJP report released in August revealed that 22,600 inmates were incarcerated in a prison system built to accommodate 16,000. The Government announced an amnesty for 6,000 prisoners in April to ease overcrowding, but by July the prison population had returned to its preamnesty levels. In some prisons, this meant that prisoners were allowed less than .65 square meters per person. Because the Mlondolozi Prison, which is supposed to accommodate mentally ill prisoners, was full, mentally disturbed prisoners were scattered throughout the regular prison system.

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. A person arrested on a criminal charge is supposed to have a preliminary hearing before a magistrate within 48 hours, but the law is often disregarded if a person is not legally represented. 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 change. High court judges still grant bail independently. The Government may still apply a wide range of legal powers under the Official Secrets Act or the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act (LOMA). Originally promulgated 30 years ago and widely used in the past to prosecute political opponents, the LOMA has extremely wide and vague sections on political and security crimes and gives extensive powers to the police, the Minister of Home Affairs, and the President. The Government has not invoked the LOMA frequently, fearing that its oppressive provisions might be declared unconstitutional. It was usually invoked to prevent gatherings or demonstrations rather than to arrest or prosecute individuals. Although Minister of Home Affairs Dumiso Dabengwa said in February that the LOMA would be repealed, in November he announced that it would not be repealed in 1993. He also cautioned that certain LOMA provisions might be part of new legislation to be introduced in Parliament. In June, six trade unionists who were arrested for taking part in a 1992 Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) procession in defiance of a government ban, challenged the constitutionality of the LOMA in the Supreme Court, but the case was postponed indefinitely. Long court delays and a critical shortage of magistrates and court interpreters result in detainees spending long periods in prison without trial. For example, in September, the Harare regional and provincial courts had backlogs of 1,400 and 1,900 cases respectively. Overall, 17 percent of Zimbabwean prisoners in late 1993 had not yet been tried or convicted. The CCJP report cited the case of Bulawayo Prison, where on the day the CCJP researcher visited, 317 of the prison's 758 inmates were unconvicted. An extreme example was the case of Daniel Malchabe whose murder trial began on July 24 after his being held in the remand center for 7 years. Officials blamed the delay on a general shortage of judicial officers that caused delay in completion of investigations. There were no known political detainees being held at year's end. Exile is not used as a means of political control.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Zimbabwe's legal system is based on a mixture of Roman-Dutch law, English common law, and customary law. Every defendant has the right to select a lawyer of his or her choosing. In criminal cases an indigent may apply to have the Government supply an attorney, while in capital cases the Government will provide an attorney for all defendants unable to afford one. Litigants in civil cases can request legal assistance from the LRF or from the Citizens Advice Bureau. Nearly 92 percent of defendants in magistrates courts are unrepresented. Human rights groups have recently highlighted the problem of poor representation for indigent clients, particularly in capital cases. The Supreme Court has instructed magistrates to ensure for the record that unrepresented defendants fully understand their rights. In addition, the Supreme Court instructed magistrates to determine themselves if there are 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 Customary Law and Local Courts Act of 1990 created a unitary court system, consisting of headmen's courts, chiefs' courts, magisterial courts, the High Court, and the Supreme Court. With the restructuring of the courts, customary law cases can be heard at all levels of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court. In March chiefs' and headmen's courts, which can hear limited categories of customary law cases in disputes not exceeding $100 and $200 respectively, were reactivated. These courts provide much greater access to the legal system to people in remote areas unfamiliar with the general law. Training for magistrates and chiefs conducted by the Chief Magistrate and the Legal Resources Foundation was widely reported in the press and went a long way toward ending human rights violations acceptable under customary law. For example, press coverage of the vigorous prosecution of families who refuse to bury their daughters until the widower pays lobola (bride price) led to a reduction in the practice. During widely publicized training sessions for chiefs, the Chief Magistrate warned that the "ukungena," the custom of forcing a widow to marry her late husband's brother, was illegal. He also declared that the practice of paying compensation and slaughtering a cow to appease the spirits in cases of incest was no longer acceptable. Although the judicial system lacks structures to guarantee its independence, such as life terms for judges, Zimbabwe's judiciary has a well-deserved reputation for independence. Judges are not fired or transferred for political reasons, and the Government generally abides by court decisions even when it is strongly opposed to the rulings. However, the Government has submitted constitutional amendments to undermine major Supreme Court rulings or anticipated 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 inhumane punishment, and asserted the constitutionality of hanging in anticipation of a CCJP test case challenging hanging as a method of execution. Amendment 12 declared that the courts did not have jurisdiction to determine questions of compensation for compulsory acquisition of land. Amendment 13, tabled just weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that long incarceration on death row constituted cruel and and inhumane punishment, declared that neither treatment of prisoners nor delays in carrying out their sentences entitle prisoners to a stay or remission of sentence. The Amendment will apply retroactively. It was the third amendment in a row drafted to undermine a Supreme Court ruling or anticipated ruling. In addition, President Mugabe invoked the Presidential Powers Act to overturn a High Court eviction order in a civil case. Legal practitioners feared the use of the Act in a civil case set a dangerous precedent. In July President Mugabe declared that if the courts sought to interfere with implementation of the Land Acquisition Act, the Government would ignore the ruling and "declare a unilateral declaration of independence" on the land. There were no political prisoners at year's end. However, the CCJP remained concerned about 32 former PF-ZAPU guerrillas convicted of particularly serious crimes, such as murder, who were not beneficiaries of the 1990 general amnesty.

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

The Constitution formally protects citizens from arbitrary search or entry, and after 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, implementation of the 1992 Land Acquisition Act denies farmers whose lands have been designated for acquisition adequate due process; they may only appeal the amount of compensation in administrative courts, not the decision to acquire their farms. Commercial farmers are overwhelmingly white; as a result, the Act has been implemented de facto along racial lines. Designations of most black "emergent farmers" have been dropped, and President Mugabe referred to white farmers as "racist settlers." Questioned on implementatiom of the Act, he attacked representatives of concerned governments as "racial bigots from countries whose red Indians, Eskimos, and blacks are discriminated against." 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 farm is a particularly egregious example. His farm (and home) were designated shortly after press reports alleged that he required 24 women caught stealing firewood on his property to remove their clothes as punishment. Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Water Development Kumbirai Kangai publicly defended the decision to designate Ellsworth's farm by terming it "due punishment" and stating that it was the "quickest tool to achieve the desired result." The farms of Ndabaningi Sithole and James Chikerema, political opponents of the ruling party, were designated in April. However, a commission on land tenure was established in November, and the Government and commercial farmers began a constructive dialog on land issues. The Government evicted over 2,500 squatter families in 1993, often without providing adequate alternative arrangements. In October the ZRP moved in force to evict the 4,000 residents of opposition ZANU-Ndonga leader Ndabaningi Sithole's Churu Farm. The Government made almost no provision for their alternative settlement. Senior Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Joseph Msika said Churu Farm residents should "go and join their homeless colleagues in the streets" and then apply to his Ministry for aid. With the assistance of Zimbabwean human rights groups, Churu Farm residents appealed against the Government's eviction order. The High Court ruled that the evictions were illegal because the Government had not given residents 90 days' notice. At year's end, the situation was a stand-off: Police remained encamped at the farm, and nearly 1,000 families were living in makeshift huts along the road, afraid to return to their homes.

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." In practice, there are significant restrictions. At public events it is generally assumed that speakers are under surveillance and may be subject to follow-up questioning by the CIO if their remarks are judged too controversial. 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. In May the Government ruled out the possibility of privatizing the cash-strapped Zimbabwe Inter-Africa News Agency (Ziana Wire Service). The Government influences mainstream media through indirect ownership, editorial appointments, directives to editors, and removal of wayward editors. There is no opposition press per se, but a small independent press, consisting primarily of a daily, 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, with circulations under 3,000 and varying frequencies. Despite its harsh public attacks on many of these publications, the Government has taken no overt punitive measures against them, but there is a high degree of self-censorship aggravated by antidefamation laws which make no distinction between public and private persons. Radio and television are entirely government owned and controlled. In May the Zimbabwe Broadcast Corporation (ZBC) refused to run paid Forum Party advertisements and announcements of meetings. When pressed for a written reason why the advertisements could not be purchased, the ZBC reversed the decision. Opposition party rallies and press conferences receive only limited television or radio coverage. In July President Mugabe rejected the possibility of allowing an independent broadcasting station, stating "you don't know what propaganda they are going to broadcast." Academic freedom remained curtailed by the University of Zimbabwe and the National University of Science and Technology Amendment Acts (1990) which greatly restrict the independence of these universities from government influence and extend the disciplinary powers of the university authorities against staff and students. However, in April the Supreme Court ruled that three University of Zimbabwe students expelled for their part in May 1992 student demonstrations should be reinstated. There were no major student demonstrations in 1993. Students at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo protested the slow disbursement of government funds for campus expansion, but the demonstrations were poorly organized and supported.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution formally provides for the right of assembly and association for political and nonpolitical organizations, including a broad spectrum of economic, social, professional, and recreational activities. There are several active political parties and human rights organizations, as well as 35 trade unions. 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. The broadest authority for restricting these freedoms is contained in the LOMA. Since the lifting of the SOE, the Government has relied on the LOMA to limit freedom of association or assembly, invoking the Act five times in the first 2 months of 1993. Organizations are generally free of governmental interference as long as their activities are viewed as nonpolitical.

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. Religious belief is neither a handicap nor an advantage in terms of professional or political advancement.

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

Travel at home and abroad is not generally subject to official restrictions, although in the past restrictions were occasionally applied to prevent anticipated criticism of the Government before foreign audiences. There were no reports of restrictions in 1993. Zimbabwean-born people do not have automatic right of return. Zimbabwean women may not confer citizenship or even apply for automatic residence registration for their spouses and children. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in 1993 the registered refugee population was estimated at 140,000, mostly Mozambicans. The Government permitted UNHCR officials unrestricted access to Mozambican refugee camps. Another 100,000 Mozambicans, many of them migrant farmers, were self-settled in rural areas in the east. The Government announced in September that it intended to repatriate 70,000 Mozambican refugees, but only 9,300 had been repatriated by year's end. The refugees are being screened by the UNHCR. No instances of refoulement (summary repatriation to a country where a refugee claims to fear persecution) were reported in 1993.

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 March 1990 presidential and parliamentary elections – with intimidation by the security forces, lopsided media coverage, inaccuracies in the voters' rolls, and irregularities in some constituencies – called into question their ability to exercise that right. The ruling party captured 117 of the 120 seats in those elections; as a result, there is still 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. The Political Parties Funding Act inhibits the development of opposition parties by providing government funding only to those parties which have more than 15 parliamentary seats. No other party will be able to secure 15 seats before the 1995 national elections; opposition parties currently hold only 3 of the 150 seats in Zimbabwe's Parliament. The 1993-94 budget provides $4.6 million in public funding for ZANU-PF, up from $3.1 million in 1992-93. The net result of several constitutional amendments was to concentrate power in the executive branch of government. As in many countries with a Westminster system, if an M.P. "crosses the floor," e.g., changes his party allegiance, or is declared by his party to have ceased to represent its interests in Parliament by being critical of its policies, or is expelled from that party (perhaps for activities totally unrelated to performance as a parliamentarian), such an M.P. immediately loses his seat and a by-election has to be held. This provision makes M.P.'s more submissive to the party line. However, a small group of backbenchers in the Parliament vigorously confronted the Government on a number of issues ranging from corruption to parastatal management and water projects in 1993. Problems with the voter rolls and intimidation of voters and candidates marred parliamentary by-elections and district council elections in 1993. Credible reports held that CIO agents told voters in Matabeleland that the infamous "Fifth Brigade" (which left a trail of murder and torture there in the mid-1980's) would return if they did not vote for ZANU-PF. Rural dwellers reported that government agents told them they would not be eligible to receive drought relief if they supported the opposition. ZIMRIGHTS expressed concern over allegations of intimidation by security forces of an independent candidate in the Matobo by-election. The Ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development stated it was investigating complaints that several rural district council elections were conducted improperly. However, no report had been issued by year's end. Problems with the voter rolls meant that hundreds were turned away during the by-elections. The Registrar General of Voters' Office worked to update the voter rolls before the 1995 election; according to Ministry of Home Affairs officials, there were 1 million eligible voters whose names had not been added to the rolls, and as many as 30 percent of those on the current rolls were redundant. Members of Parliament and opposition party members complained that copies of the voter roll were not made available to them. Opposition party members were subject to occasional CIO harassment. Several opposition party leaders lost, or were threatened with losing, their jobs. The discovery of a listening device at the Forum's national convention in March was widely reported in the press. The Constitution provides for one person, one vote, and any one over the age of 18 is eligible to register to vote in general elections. The Government amalgamated rural and district councils in an attempt to end white farm owner domination of the councils in rural areas. In metropolitan areas, save Bulawayo, in the wealthy suburbs only homeowners may vote, though in high density urban areas renters may vote in city council elections. Wealthy areas are accorded 1 council representative per 3,000 voters, while high density districts have 1 council person per 8,000 voters. Women participate in politics without restriction. Eight female ministerial-level appointees served in 1993, but of the 150 M.P.'s, only 16 were women.

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

The Government permits private local human rights groups to operate in Zimbabwe. However, it monitors their activities, in particular those of the CCJP, which investigates complaints from private persons about human rights abuses and conveys its findings to the Government. Other groups which promote human rights include ZIMRIGHTS, the Southern African Human Rights Foundation (SAHRF), and the Harare-based Legal Resources Foundation which oversees the operation of the Bulawayo, Gweru, and Masvingo Legal Projects Centers with their libraries and information centers, legal aid clinics, and paralegal programs. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) operates a regional office in Harare and cooperates with the UNHCR to assist Mozambican, South African, and other refugees.

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


Since independence the Government has enacted major laws aimed at enhancing women's rights and countering certain traditional practices, some of which are based on the view of women as dependents or minors. For example, 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. Judges on the High Courts have adjudicated cases upholding women's rights, including the right to inherit property. The Government and women's rights groups circulated a white paper on a draft inheritance law, soliciting comments from a cross-section of Zimbabweans and holding meetings to inform (particularly rural) women about their rights. The right of a woman to procure or receive government-provided contraceptives without her husband's written permission was recently accepted. Nevertheless, many women remain disadvantaged in Zimbabwean society. Ignorance of reforms, illiteracy, economic dependency, and prevailing social norms prevent rural women in particular from benefiting equally from these changes. Despite legal prohibitions, women are still vulnerable to entrenched customary practices which operate against their personal rights. Among these persistent practices are "kuzvarira," the practice of pledging a young woman to marriage with a partner not of her choosing; "ukungena," 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. As noted above, legal education and vigorous prosecution of offenders significantly reduced the practices of ukungena and refusing to bury a woman until lobola is paid. A considerable expansion of the nation's educational system resulted in an increase in the absolute number of girls being educated but did not alter the pattern of male domination of the higher levels of education. Though legislation prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, women are concentrated in the lower echelons of the work force and in urban areas face harassment in the workplace. Fear of losing employment often prevents women from reporting sexual harassment at work. Domestic violence against women, especially wife beating, is common and crosses all racial and economic lines in Zimbabwe. Consequently, several social welfare organizations, including the Harare-based Musasa Project, organized counseling and research programs aimed at stemming violence against women. Women's rights monitors 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 Government assigned to police precincts community relations liaison officers to counsel victims of battering and sexual assault. Press reports indicated, however, that community relations officers sometimes attempted to dissuade women from pressing charges against their husbands. The Women's Action Group urged police to improve their services by giving women who have been raped a full explanation of court procedures and possible defense attorney tactics before they appear in court.


The Government has a Ministry of Health and Child Welfare. The Children's Protection and Adoption Act, as well as the Guardianship of Minors Act, the Infant Act, and the Deceased Person's Maintenance Act, were all enacted to protect the legal rights of minor children. The criminal justice system has special provisions for dealing with juveniles. Although there is no compulsory age for education, primary school attendance 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. In 1993 the Government began to take steps to combat the increasingly serious "street kids" problem. The most recent police figures show that, during 1992, 964 reports of rape were made to the police countrywide, the majority involving girls under 14. According to press reports, the initiation rites still practiced by the small Remba ethnic group include infibulation, an extreme form of female genital mutilation.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

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. In many rural areas, however, the neglect of the preindependence period continued to inhibit provision of minimal care. In social terms, Zimbabwe remains a racially stratified country despite legal prohibitions against official discrimination. Schools, churches, and clubs are all integrated. Social interaction among racial groups is limited but increasing.

People with Disabilities

The Disabled Persons Act passed in April specifically prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, admission to public places, or provision of services. In practice, however, lack of resources for training and education severely hamper the ability of disabled people to compete for scarce jobs. Although the Act stipulates that access for disabled persons should be provided to government buildings after a request for access facilities has been made to the Disabled Persons Board and the Board has inspected the building and recommended adjustments for disabled access, few government buildings now provide access to the disabled.

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). According to the LRA, any "interested person" may apply for the reconsideration of a trade union's registration. According to the Act, such an application may be lodged if a union "no longer represents the interest or area for which it was registered" or "has failed to perform any of its functions" in terms of the Act. After holding required hearings on the complaint, the registrar may vary, suspend, or rescind the union's registration. Less than 20 percent of the salaried work force belongs to the 35 unions which form the ZCTU. Its officers are elected by the delegates of affiliated trade unions at congresses held every 5 years. While the ZCTU's formation was encouraged by the Government to be the labor arm of ZANU-PF, the Government no longer influences its actions. Few of its founding members are still active in the trade union movement, and the ZCTU and the Government have increasingly clashed on economic and political issues. Although the LRA allows for the formation of multiple national federations, none but the ZCTU exists. Some unions, however, choose not to affiliate with the ZCTU. 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. One year after the passage of the controversial Labor Relations Amendment Act (LRAA), 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 Labor Relations Act while extending its coverage to the public sector. The LRA specifies that workers may establish worker committees, which exist side by side with unions, in each plant. Worker committees must also be registered with the Ministry, which is free to refuse registration. Trade union officials and others hold that the existence of workers' committees, which were strengthened by the 1992 amendments, dilutes the unions' authority. Nonetheless, the ZCTU grew stronger in 1993, and the Government appeared less inclined to challenge it directly. The International Confederation 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. Only a handful of short-lived strikes took place during 1993. A dispute over working conditions and management at Dalny Mine in April resulted in the deaths of four persons after police fired on a crowd of protestors. 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 (AALC) maintains a regional office based in Harare. The AALC's American representative was granted a 2-year temporary employment permit as he had requested.

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. 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. 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 be reinstated. Wage negotiations take place on an industrywide basis between the relevant union and employer organization sitting in joint employment boards or councils. These bodies submit their agreements to the Registrar in the Ministry for approval and the Government retains the power to veto agreements it believes would harm the economy. As part of its economic recovery program, the Government announced in 1990 the commencement of free collective bargaining between workers and employers. In 1992 the Ministry endorsed the wage and salary recommendations of all 46 employment boards. However, as noted above, the role of the worker committees impinges on traditional trade union bargaining rights. In 1993 public and private sector workers criticized Minister of Public Service John Nkomo for calling for wage restraint in his annual wage policy statement. Workers argued that the Minister's statement interfered with the collective bargaining process. When no trade union represents a specific sector, representatives of the organized workers, i.e., the professional associations, meet with the employers' association under the mediation of labor officers from the Ministry. Public sector wages are determined by the Salary Service Department of the Ministry, 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 Minister of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare. The Minister is not required by law to accept the recommendation and, in fact, in both 1992 and 1993 granted wage increases significantly lower than the PSC/PSA recommendation. So-called managerial employees are excluded from union membership and thus from the the collective bargaining process. The presence of the ZCTU or specific national unions in individual shop-floor negotiations is not mandated. The Labor Relations Amendment Act streamlined the procedure for adjudicating disputes by abolishing the hearing officer level and the Labor Relations Board and strengthening the Labor Relations Tribunal (LRT). Now, labor relations officers hear a dispute; their judgment may be appealed to regional labor relations officers; then the LRT may hear the case; and ultimately it may be appealed to the Supreme Court. In 1993 the Government filled long vacant positions on the LRT, but the LRT boards were not fully staffed and faced a substantial backlog at year's end. There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Compulsory labor is prohibited by law and is not 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 years. The Government is working with the ILO on new child labor legislation. While child labor is most prevalent in the agricultural sector, an increasing number of children can be found working in the informal sector. In the manufacturing sector, minimum age regulations are generally enforced by the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare.

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 wage for domestics and gardeners is the de facto minimum wage for Zimbabwe. As of November 15, it was set at $26 (Z$177) per month. The employer usually provides housing and food to workers. On commercial farms, the employer may provide schooling for the workers' children. The minimum wage is not sufficient to sustain a decent standard of living, and the lowest paid workers received a 1993 wage increase which covered less than one-half of the 28-percent inflation rate. Minimum wage rates in those sectoral collective bargaining agreements for 1993 which had been concluded by mid-December range from $26 (Z$177) to $71 (Z$484) in the manufacturing sector. Labor relations officers from the Ministry 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 major problem, due primarily to too few inspectors. Furthermore, many of the basic legal protections do not apply to the vast majority of the 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 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.

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.