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Zimbabwe

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

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

Although the constitution prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, security forces engaged in such practices with impunity and with the implicit support of officials affiliated with ZANU-PF. Police used excessive force in apprehending, detaining, and interrogating criminal suspects. According to NGOs, security forces assaulted and tortured citizens in custody, including perceived opponents of ZANU-PF. In some cases police arrested and charged the victims of violence instead of perpetrators.

Human rights groups reported the continuance of physical and psychological torture perpetrated by security agents and ZANU-PF supporters. Reported torture methods included beating victims with sticks, clubs, whips, cables, and sjamboks (a heavy whip); burning; falanga (beating the soles of the feet); electric shocks; solitary confinement; sleep deprivation; and forcing victims into sex acts.

According to one NGO, from January through August, 493 victims of organized violence and torture sought medical treatment and counseling after sustaining injuries in separate incidents across the country. The NGO reported the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) was responsible for 66 percent of the violations, while ZANU-PF supporters were responsible for 25 percent of the violations. Nearly 49 percent of the cases occurred in the capital, Harare. Although the majority of victims did not indicate their political affiliation, more than 30 percent of all victims associated themselves with the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T), Zimbabwe People First, or other opposition political parties.

On February 17, state security agents allegedly abducted a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) official in the town of Gwanda. An NGO reported they forced the victim into a truck and drove off. State security agents allegedly tortured the victim, releasing him after PDP officials made a report to the Gwanda police.

On September 12, six alleged state security agents abducted Tajumuka/Sesjikile activist Sylvanos Mudzvova from his Harare home in view of his wife and children. These men reportedly blindfolded Mudzvova and subjected him to electric shocks to his feet and genitals while interrogating him. He was left unconscious several miles outside of Harare.

Police used excessive force to disperse demonstrators, resulting in injuries.

For example, on February 18, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of war veterans planning a march on ZANU-PF’s headquarters.

On August 26, police used tear gas, water cannons, and batons to disperse an estimated crowd of 150 demonstrators who gathered for a march calling for electoral reforms. According to one NGO, 43 persons sought medical assistance after sustaining injuries while participating in the demonstration. The NGO reported police arrested 70 persons, 20 of whom sustained injuries that required medical attention.

ZANU-PF supporters–often with tacit support from police or government officials–continued to assault and mistreat scores of persons, including civil society activists and known opposition political party members and their families, especially in Harare neighborhoods and nearby towns. Presidential Spokesman and Information Ministry Permanent Secretary George Charamba threatened to deploy ZANU-PF militia on antigovernment protesters instead of regular police. Violent confrontations between youth groups of the ZANU-PF (known as “Chipangano”) and opposition political parties continued, particularly in urban areas. ZANU-PF supporters were the primary instigators of political violence.

On September 26, media reported ZANU-PF activists tortured and detained peaceful marchers at ZANU-PF headquarters, including MDC-T legislators protesting against Mugabe, before releasing them to police.

The courts punished some ZANU-PF supporters accused of political violence. Police investigated and arrested four ZANU-PF activists implicated in abducting, torturing, and robbing MDC-T supporter Stewart Chandimhara on June 18. On September 9, the Rusape Magistrates’ Court charged the four men with kidnapping and robbery. Their cases were pending at year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions remained harsh, partly due to overcrowding in older urban remand facilities, and the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) struggled to provide adequate food and sanitary conditions. The 2013 constitution added prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration into society to ZPCS responsibilities.

Physical Conditions: There were approximately 17,000 prisoners, spread across 46 main prisons and 26 satellite prisons. While some prisons operated below capacity, NGOs reported overcrowding continued due to outdated infrastructure and judicial backlogs.

Prison guards occasionally beat and abused prisoners, but NGOs reported that the use of excessive force by prison guards was not systematic and that senior prison officials increased efforts to address the problem.

NGOs reported female prisoners generally fared better than male prisoners. Authorities held women in separate prison wings and provided women guards. Women generally received more food from their families than did male prisoners. The several dozen children under age three living with their incarcerated mothers were required to share their mothers’ food allocation. NGOs were unaware of women inmates reporting rapes or other physical abuse. NGOs suggested either women guards were more diligent in protecting women prisoners from abuse or that female prisoners did not report abuse. With support from NGOs, prisons distributed some sanitary supplies for women, although prison officials often reserved some of these supplies for themselves. Officials did not provide pregnant women and nursing mothers with additional care or food rations, but the ZPCS solicited donations from NGOs and donors for additional provisions.

There was one juvenile prison housing boys only. Girls were held together with women. Authorities held boys in adult prisons throughout the country while in remand. Officials generally tried to place younger boys in separate cells. Authorities generally sent juveniles to prison rather than to reformatory homes as stipulated in the law. Juveniles were particularly vulnerable to abuse by prison officials and other prisoners.

According to the ZPCS, remand prisons were overcrowded. Conditions in prisons, jails, and detention centers were often harsh. Authorities often held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners until their bail hearings.

Food shortages were widespread but not life threatening. Prisoners identified as malnourished received additional meals. The harvest of prison farm products provided meals for prisoners. Prisoners had limited access to clean water.

Poor sanitary conditions contributed to disease, including diarrhea, measles, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. Lighting and ventilation were inadequate. There were insufficient mattresses, blankets, warm clothing, sanitary supplies, and hygiene products.

Prisoners had access to very basic medical care, with a clinic and doctor at every facility. In partnership with NGOs, the ZPCS offered peer education on HIV/AIDS. The ZPCS tested prisoners for HIV only when requested by prisoners or prison doctors. Due to outdated regulations and a lack of specialized medical personnel and medications, prisoners suffered from routine but treatable medical conditions such as hypertension, tuberculosis, diabetes, asthma, and respiratory diseases.

Those detained for politically motivated reasons were held at police stations for days while their court dates or bail hearings were pending.

Administration: The ZPCS established an inspections and audit unit to assess prison conditions and improve monitoring of prisoners’ rights, but the unit did not release the results of such assessments. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) increased the number of monitoring visits it conducted in prisons. There was no prison ombudsman, but there were statutory mechanisms to allow alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders.

Record keeping on prisoners was inadequate. Prisoners moved from one facility to another were occasionally lost in the ZPCS’ administrative system for weeks or months. Authorities permitted prisoners to submit complaints without censorship, but investigations were rare.

Prisoners and detainees had relatively unrestricted access to visitors, except in maximum-security prisons, where geographic constraints hampered access by relatives of prisoners.

Independent Monitoring: The law provides international human rights monitors the right to visit prisons. Church groups and NGOs seeking to provide humanitarian assistance gained access. All organizations working in prisons reported that meetings with prisoners occurred without third parties present and with minimal restrictions.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups operated in the country, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Such groups were subject to government restrictions, interference, monitoring, confiscation of materials and documentation, and other forms of harassment. Major domestic NGOs included the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Zimbabwe Election Support Network, ZLHR, Zimbabwe Peace Project, ZimRights, Students Solidarity Trust, Heal Zimbabwe Trust, and Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise.

The government harassed NGOs it believed would expose abuses by government personnel or that opposed government policies, and it continued to use government-controlled media to disparage and attack human rights groups. State media reporting typically dismissed the efforts and recommendations of NGOs critical of government, accusing the NGOs of seeking regime change.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) remained underfunded but managed to fulfill some of its constitutionally mandated functions. For example, the ZHRC stated police violated the rights of citizens through the use of excessive force during demonstrations in August. The ZHRC called upon authorities to prosecute any perpetrators of human rights violations and encouraged members of the public to file formal complaints with the commission if they had suffered police abuse. Government media attacked the ZHRC for the statement. The ZHRC investigated allegations of ZANU-PF officials denying opposition party supporters food aid. In a public statement, the ZHRC chairperson criticized ruling party politicians for interfering in the distribution of food aid for personal political gain at the expense of deserving beneficiaries.

The constitution calls for the establishment of a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission to operate during a 10-year period with the goal of ensuring post-conflict justice, healing, and reconciliation. On February 24, President Mugabe swore in members of the commission. Although the government presented to parliament a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission bill, civil society organizations and citizens advocated for its withdrawal, citing concerns regarding limitations placed on the commission’s authority.

Section 7. Worker Rights

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, with exceptions for work for the national youth service and forced prison labor. The Labor Amendment Act defines forced labor as “any work or services which a person is required to perform against his or her will under the threat of some form of punishment,” the first such legal definition in the country. Forced prison labor includes “any labor required in consequence of the sentence or order of a court” as well as what “is reasonably necessary in the interests of hygiene or for the maintenance or management of the place at which he is detained.”

Conviction of forced labor is punishable by a fine, two years’ imprisonment, or both; such penalties were insufficient to deter violations. A 2014 law prescribes punishment of not less than 10 years’ imprisonment and, with aggravating circumstances, up to imprisonment for life, for conviction of human trafficking–including labor trafficking. The law does not clearly define the crime of trafficking in persons and requires transportation of the victim, which further limits the cases in which the regulation could be applied.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. There were no reports that the government attempted to prevent and eliminate forced labor during the year. There were no data on the numbers of victims removed from forced labor, if any.

Forced labor, including by children, occurred, although the extent of the problem was unknown. Adults and children were subjected to forced labor in agriculture and domestic service in rural areas, as well as domestic servitude in cities and towns (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The Labor Amendment Act increases the minimum age for general labor from 13 to 16. The law increases the minimum age for apprenticeship from 15 to 16 and declares void and unenforceable formal apprenticeship contracts entered into by children under age 18 without the assistance of a guardian. The law further states that no person under age 18 shall perform any work likely to jeopardize that person’s health, safety, or morals.

The laws were not effectively enforced. The Department of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, but the department lacked personnel and commitment to carry out inspections or other monitoring. Penalties, including fines not exceeding $400, imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both, were not sufficient to deter violations. There was no government action to combat child labor during the year. In 2015 NGO Coalition against Child Labor in Zimbabwe completed a two-year program wherein it returned 2,150 child laborers to school in the Chiredzi region.

Child labor remained endemic and was on the rise. Child labor occurred primarily in the informal sectors. Inspectors received no training addressing child labor and did not closely monitor it. Children worked in agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, forestry, informal mining, as domestic staff and street vendors, and in other parts of the informal sector. The Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation conducted a survey of its membership that revealed more than 4,000 child street vendors.

According to a 2014 report compiled by ZimStat, the governmental statistics agency, 30 percent of children ages five to nine and 60 percent of children ages 10 to 14 were engaged in economic activity at least one hour per week. Seven percent of children ages five to nine and 12 percent of children ages 10 to 14 worked 21 hours or more per week in economic child labor. Ninety-seven percent of the children involved in economic child labor resided in rural areas, and 96 percent were employed in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries.

Children often faced hazards to their health and safety and lacked necessary equipment and training. Working on farms exposed children to bad weather, dangerous chemicals, and the use of heavy machinery. Most children involved in mining worked for themselves, a family member, or someone in the community. Exposure to hazardous materials, particularly mercury, was on the rise in the informal mining sector.

Forced labor by children occurred in the agricultural, artisanal gold and chrome mining, and domestic sectors. Children also were used in the commission of illegal activities, including gambling and drug smuggling. Some employers did not pay wages to child domestic workers, claiming they were assisting a child from a rural home by providing room and board. Some employers paid the parents for a child’s work. Relatives often took children orphaned by HIV/AIDS into their homes but used them as domestic workers without pay.

See the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The NECs set the minimum wage for all industrial sectors through a bipartite agreement between employers and labor unions. According to the ZCTU, available statistics showed that as of September 2015 the average monthly wage was $246, down from $304 in 2013. The lowest paid public service workers earned $375 a month in 2015. According to ZimStat, the food poverty line for a family of five in April was $153, and the total consumption poverty line in April was $481. In 2014, 42 percent of paid employees earned above the food poverty line amounts, while only 4 percent earned above the total consumption poverty line amount.

The law does not provide for a standard workweek, but it prescribes a minimum of one 24-hour continuous rest period a week. The maximum legal workweek is negotiated between unions and employers in each sector. No worker is allowed to work more than 12 continuous hours. According to the Labor Force Survey, 28 percent of the employed population worked excessive hours, defined as more than 48 hours per week. The law prescribes that workers receive not less than twice their standard remuneration for working on a public holiday or on Sunday. The government sets safety and health standards on an industry-specific basis. The public service commission sets conditions of employment in the public sector.

Labor law does not differentiate between workers based on sector or industry. The labor law does not apply to the informal sector, composed of an estimated 95 percent of the labor force. The law applies to migrant laborers if they are in the formal sector. There were no reports of discrimination against migrant laborers in the formal sector.

Occupational safety and health standards were current and appropriate for the main industries in the country. In 2015 the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) commissioned an occupational health center in the capital and a mobile clinic to monitor the health of miners and industrial workers. Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage and work hours laws for each sector, but the standards were not enforced effectively due to inadequate monitoring systems and a labor inspector shortage. According to the International Labor Organization, there were fewer than 125 labor inspectors responsible for investigating labor-related violations and for enforcing labor laws, including those covering children. The Zimbabwe Occupational Safety Council, a quasi-governmental advisory body to the NSSA, regulated working conditions. Budgetary constraints and staffing shortages, as well as its status as an advisory council, made it largely ineffective. Penalties for violations of wage or hours of work restrictions range from a fine to imprisonment for a period not to exceed two years. Such penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Penalties for occupational safety and health violations were not harmonized and fall within the jurisdiction of numerous ministries.

NSSA statistics showed there were 5,380 workplace injuries and 54 fatalities in 2015, down from 5,491 and 98, respectively, in 2014. Most injuries and deaths occurred in the mining sector. The ZFTU reported that workers at iron smelters often suffered burns due to a lack of protective clothing. The NSSA attributed the high injury and fatality rates to low investment in occupational safety and health, noncompliance with rules and regulations, and low levels of awareness of occupational safety and health matters.

Employers paid many agricultural and domestic workers below the minimum wage. The ZCTU reported many agricultural workers earned $72 per month. Many public servants also earned less than the poverty line. During the year there was pervasive partial payment or nonpayment of salaries in both the public and private sectors. According to a report by the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe that analyzed data from ZCTU-affiliated union representatives at 442 companies, 54 percent of employees had gone at least 13 months without pay. All employees went at least three months without pay, and 16 percent had gone 25 or more months without pay.

There was little or no enforcement of the workhours law, particularly for agricultural and domestic workers. Although workers were generally unlikely to complain to authorities of violations due to fear of losing their jobs, some exceptions occurred. In 2013 Sabout Haulage drivers took their employer to the Constitutional Court for infringing on their right to fair and safe labor practices and the right to be paid overtime. The case was pending at year’s end.

Poor health and safety standards in the workplace were common problems faced by workers in both the formal and informal sectors due to lack of enforcement. Abuses by the management at certain foreign-owned enterprises and companies owned by well-connected politicians were common, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of workers; poor working conditions; underpayment or nonpayment of wages; unfair dismissal; and firing without notice. Workers’ committee members of a foreign-owned mining company reported fear and serious victimization, including arbitrary nonrenewal of contracts, dismissals without charges, late payment of salaries, and insufficient provision of protective clothing. No information was available on the treatment of foreign and migrant workers. The government considered many commercial farm workers to be foreigners because one or both parents were born in another country.

Due to the growth of the informal mining sector, artisanal miners, including children, were increasingly exposed to chemicals and environmental waste. An estimated 1.5 million persons were engaged in artisanal mining, defined as mining activities carried out using low technology or with minimal machinery, according to the Zimbabwe Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners Council.

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