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Title:  Zimbabwe Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996


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

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

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

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


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

   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killings

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

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

   b.   Disappearance

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

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

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

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

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

   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

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

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

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

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

   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were no reports of political prisoners.  

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

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

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

Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

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

   c.   Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are institutional problems with the management and supervision of 
elections.  Although the Ministry of Justice technically administers the 
Electoral Act, the Registrar General's Office falls under the Ministry 
of Home Affairs.  With a meager budget and a tiny staff seconded from 
the Ministry of Justice, the Electoral Supervisory Commission lacks the 
institutional capacity to oversee properly Zimbabwe's 2,200 polling 
stations.  Nor do commissioners have the executive authority to order 
that an irregularity be corrected.  Despite an attempt to computerize 
the voters' roll before the general election, the roll contained over 1 
million redundancies or errors, including misspellings, multiple 
entries, and names of the deceased.  This occurred despite the Registrar 
General's earlier announcement that the Delimitation Commission would 
not count voters when defining constituency boundaries unless they 
reregistered.  There was no mechanism provided for the public to comment 
on the newly defined boundaries or for adjustment of the boundaries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

   People with Disabilities

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

   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

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

Section 6   Worker Rights

   a.   The Right of Association

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

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

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

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

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

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

   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

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

Collective bargaining wage negotiations take place on an industrywide 
basis between the relevant union and employer organizations sitting on 
joint employment boards or councils.  These bodies submit their 
agreements to the registrar in the MPSLSW for approval.  The Government 
retains the power to veto agreements it believes would harm the economy.  
However, it did not directly involve itself in labor negotiations unless 
requested to do so by one of the two parties.  When no trade union 
represents a specific sector, representatives of the organized workers, 
i.e., the professional associations, meet with the employer 
associations, under the mediation of labor officers from the MPSLSW.  
Public sector wages are determined 

by the Salary Service Department of the MPSLSW, subject to the approval 
of an independent Public Service Commission (PSC).  Each year, PSC 
officials meet with PSA representatives to review wages and benefits.  
These reviews result in a recommendation which is forwarded to the 
MPSLSW.  The Minister is not required by law to accept the 

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

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

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

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

   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

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

   d.   Minimum Age of Employment of Children

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

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

   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work

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

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

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


[end of document]


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