Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Police units sometimes organized or participated in political violence. Security sector impunity for politically motivated abuses remained a problem.
For example, on February 5, police detectives reportedly shot and killed Passmore Mazariro, whom police suspected of cell phone theft, at his home in Harare. They forced entry into Mazariro’s house and ordered him to lie on his stomach. One of the detectives then allegedly shot and killed him.
Impunity for past politically motivated violence remained a problem. Investigations continued of prior years’ cases of violence resulting in death committed by security forces and ZANU-PF supporters, but by year’s end no one had been arrested or charged in these cases.
There were no advances in holding legally accountable those responsible for the deaths of at least 19 citizens who died of injuries sustained during the 2008 political violence that targeted opposition party members; more than 270 others were also killed that year. Observers believed the primary perpetrators of the violence were members of ZANU-PF, including the party’s youth militia, and individuals identifying themselves as war veterans.
Unwillingness to acknowledge past atrocities or seek justice for victims continued to influence Shona-Ndebele relations negatively. Approximately 20,000 persons were killed during the 1980s because of a government-sanctioned crackdown on persons believed to be insurgents in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions.
There were no reports of long-term politically motivated disappearances. Although the High Court ordered the government to provide updates on the 2015 disappearance of democracy activist Itai Dzamara, government officials failed to do so. There were no reports of authorities punishing any perpetrators of previous acts of disappearance.
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.
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, although other sections of the law effectively weakened these prohibitions. The government enforced security laws in conflict with the constitution. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, particularly political and civil society activists perceived as opposing the ZANU-PF party. Security forces frequently arrested large numbers of persons during antigovernment protests. State security agents often arrested opposition activists from their homes at night, refused to identify themselves, and used unmarked and untraceable vehicles.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The constitution provides for a National Security Council (NSC) composed of the president, vice president, and selected ministers and members of the security services. The NSC, chaired by the president, is responsible for setting security policies and advises the government on all security-related matters. The ZRP is responsible for maintaining internal law and order. The Department of Immigration and the ZRP are primarily responsible for migration and border enforcement. Although the ZRP is officially under the authority of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Office of the President controlled some ZRP roles and missions. The Zimbabwe National Army and Air Force constitute the Zimbabwe Defense Forces under the Ministry of Defense. The armed forces are responsible for external security, but the government sometimes deployed them as a back-up to the police as a show of force. For example, in July the Zimbabwe Defense Forces deployed army personnel in response to the riots at the Beitbridge border post. The Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), under the Office of the Vice President, is responsible for internal and external security. All security sector chiefs report directly to the president, who is commander in chief of all security services.
Implicit assurances of impunity and a culture of disregard for human rights contributed to police use of excessive force in apprehending and detaining criminal suspects. Ignorance of the provisions of the constitution also compromised the quality of police work. Police were ill equipped, underpaid (frequently in arrears), and poorly trained, particularly at the lower levels. A lack of sufficient fuel and resources reduced police effectiveness. Poor working conditions, low salaries, and high rates of dismissal resulted in corruption and high turnover. The government changed pay dates for security forces on a month-to-month basis.
The constitution calls for a government body to investigate complaints against the police. Despite this provision, there were no internal or external entities to investigate abuse by the security forces. Authorities reportedly investigated and arrested corrupt police officers for criminal activity but also punished or arrested police officers on arbitrary charges for failing to obtain or share illicitly gained funds.
Government efforts to reform the security forces were minimal, and there were no reports of disciplinary actions against security officers who erred in ZANU-PF’s favor in their official conduct. Training on allegiance to ZANU-PF for securing the country’s sovereignty was commonplace, while authorities rarely provided training on nonpartisan implementation of the rule of law or human rights.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The law stipulates that arrests require a warrant issued by either a court or senior police officer and that police inform an arrested person of the charges before taking the individual into custody. Police did not respect these rights. The law requires authorities to inform a person at the time of arrest of the reason for the arrest. A preliminary hearing must be held before a magistrate within 48 hours of an arrest. According to the constitution, only a competent court may extend the period of detention.
The law provides for bail for most accused persons. In 2015 the Constitutional Court declared section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act unconstitutional. According to human rights attorneys, it allowed prosecutors to veto bail decisions made by the courts and keep accused persons in custody for up to seven days based on the prosecution’s stated intent to appeal bail. Despite the Constitutional Court ruling against section 121(3), the government amended the law by including provisions that allow prosecutors a veto over judicial bail decisions. Prosecutors relied on the provisions to extend the detention of opposition political activists.
Authorities often did not allow detainees prompt or regular access to their lawyers and often informed lawyers who attempted to visit their clients that detainees or those with authority to grant access were unavailable. An indigent detainee may apply to the government for an attorney in criminal cases, but requests were rarely granted except in capital cases. This occurred with cases involving opposition party members, civil society activists, and ordinary citizens. In contrast with previous years, there were no reported cases of detainees held incommunicado.
The government also harassed and intimidated human rights lawyers when they attempted to gain access to their clients.
Arbitrary Arrest: The government used arbitrary arrest and detention as tools of intimidation and harassment, especially against political activists, civil society members, journalists, and ordinary citizens asserting their rights. There were numerous reports that security forces arbitrarily arrested political and civil society activists and then released them the next day without charge.
After a nationwide protest in July, police arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire, leader of the social media movement #ThisFlag. He was initially charged with inciting violence after he organized the protest and later charged with “attempting to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means.” Police also arrested protest leader Promise Mkwananzi several times during a three-month period, detaining him on charges ranging from failure to stop at a police checkpoint to public violence.
In September police arrested opposition Member of Parliament for Mutasa North Trevor Saruwaka for leading an antigovernment demonstration organized by a coalition of opposition parties.
Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention was limited for nonpolitical prisoners. Delays in pretrial procedures were common, however, due to a shortage of magistrates and court interpreters, poor bureaucratic procedures, the low capacity of court officials, and a lack of resources. The constitution provides for the right to bail for detained suspects. Despite this provision, the government routinely opposed bail for political detainees. For example, after the arrest in early July of Occupy Africa Unity Square movement leader Linda Masarira, the government denied her bail for nearly three months while she awaited her trial.
Other prisoners remained in prison because they could not afford to pay bail, which remained exorbitant in view of economic conditions in the country. Magistrates rarely exercised the “free bail option” that authorizes them to waive bail for destitute prisoners. Lawyers reported juveniles usually spent more time in pretrial detention than adults because they could not attend court unless a parent or guardian accompanied them. Authorities occasionally did not notify parents of a juvenile’s arrest or the closest kin of an adult detainee’s arrest.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides arrested persons with the right to be brought before the courts within 48 hours of arrest. Political and civic leaders routinely challenged the lawfulness of their arrests in court. In July police arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire on charges of inciting violence. His lawyers argued successfully that prosecutors then presented different charges to the court from those read out to Mawarire when he was first arrested. The magistrate ruled that prosecutors must read out charges against an accused person at the first appearance in court.
The law absolves individual security agents from criminal liability regarding unlawful arrests and detention. Police officers routinely argued that they merely followed orders in conducting arrests and were not responsible for compensating victims of unlawful arrests.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but executive influence and interference remained a problem. For example, on September 3, President Mugabe publicly criticized judges as “negligent and reckless” for having approved public protests during his absence from the country. As was the case in 2015, however, there were instances where the judiciary demonstrated its independence despite being under intense pressure to conform to government policies.
The government often refused to abide by judicial decisions and routinely delayed payment of court costs or judgments awarded against it in civil cases. Judicial corruption was widespread, extending beyond magistrates and judges. For example, NGOs reported senior government officials undermined judicial independence, including by giving farms and homes to judges.
Magistrates heard the vast majority of cases. Legal experts claimed defendants in politically sensitive cases were more likely to receive a fair hearing in magistrates’ courts than in higher courts, in which justices were more likely to make politicized decisions. ZANU-PF sympathizers used threats and intimidation to force magistrates, particularly rural magistrates, to rule in the government’s favor. In politically charged cases, other judicial officers such as prosecutors and private attorneys also faced pressure, including harassment and intimidation. Some urban-based junior magistrates demonstrated a greater degree of independence and granted opposition party members and civil society activists bail against the government’s wishes.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, but political pressure and corruption frequently compromised this right. By law defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, although courts did not always respect this right. Magistrates or judges held trials without juries. Trials were open to the public except in cases involving minors or state security matters. Assessors, in lieu of juries, could be appointed in cases in which conviction of an offense could result in a death penalty or lengthy prison sentence. Defendants have the right to a lawyer of their choosing, but most defendants in magistrates’ courts did not have legal representation. In criminal cases an indigent defendant may apply to have the government provide an attorney, but requests were rarely granted except in capital cases, in which the government provided an attorney for all defendants unable to afford one. Individuals in civil cases may request free legal assistance from the Legal Resources Foundation or the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR). The Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association also provides some free legal assistance to women and youth. Free interpretation is provided for by law, and Shona-English interpretation was generally available. The right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense is also provided for by law but was often lacking.
Authorities sometimes denied attorneys access to their clients, especially in cases in which those detained were alleging torture. Defendants have the right to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf and to confront adverse witnesses. Any person arrested or detained for an alleged offense has the right to remain silent and may not be compelled to confess. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to access all government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Authorities did not always respect these rights.
Conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and the prosecution bears the burden of proof. The right to appeal against both conviction and sentence exists in all cases, and it is automatic in cases in which the death penalty is imposed. No groups were denied those rights.
Unlike in normal criminal proceedings, which proceed from investigation to trial within months, in cases of members of political parties or civil society critical of ZANU-PF, prosecuting agents regularly took abnormally long to submit their cases for trial. As with many other cases in which authorities granted bail to government opponents (see section 1.d.), they did not conclude investigations and set a trial date but instead chose to “proceed by way of summons.” This left the threat of impending prosecution remaining, with the accused person eventually being called to court, only to be informed of further delays. The prosecutors and police routinely retained material confiscated from the accused as evidence.
Government officials frequently ignored court orders in such cases, delayed bail and access to medical care, and selectively enforced court orders related to land disputes favorable to those associated with ZANU-PF.
The public had fair access to the courts of law, particularly the magistrates’ courts, although observers reported occasional physical and procedural impediments.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were reports of individuals arrested for political reasons, including opposition party officials, their supporters, NGO workers, and civil society activists. Authorities held many such individuals for one or two days and released them. Political prisoners and detainees did not receive the same standard of treatment as other prisoners or detainees, and prison authorities arbitrarily denied access to political prisoners. There were reports police beat and physically abused political and civil society activists while they were in detention.
On September 17, police arrested six protesters participating in demonstrations organized by the National Electoral Reform Agenda. While appearing at the Mbare Magistrates’ Court two days later, the protesters’ lawyers took pictures of their clients’ lacerated backsides. The protesters reported police beat them while in detention with rubber truncheons and denied them medical attention.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Civil judicial procedures allow for an independent and impartial judiciary, but the judiciary was subject to political influence and intimidation, particularly in cases involving high-ranking government officials, politically connected individuals, or individuals and organizations seeking remedies for violations of human rights.
Lack of judicial and police resources contributed to problems enforcing domestic court orders.
The constitution stipulates the government must compensate persons for improvements made on land subsequently taken by the government, but it does not set a timeline for the delivery of compensation. The government rarely provided restitution or compensation for the taking of private property, and police did not take action against individuals who seized private property without having secured sanction from the state to do so.
Support was uneven and inconsistent for households resettled from the diamond mining grounds of Marange in Chiadzwa to a government-owned agricultural estate outside Mutare. Since 2010 authorities relocated more than 1,800 families. Each household was entitled to receive $1,000 for relocation, although reportedly only a handful received the money. Most of the relocated families had not received compensation of any kind, including agricultural land, while the government classified them as “people with no recognizable legal rights or claim to the land that they are occupying,” citing their former land as now state land, despite customary and traditional rights to the contrary. The government held mining companies responsible for restitution and did not complete appraisal of the land and property lost by each family for the purpose of property restitution. The mining companies insisted the government was responsible. Relocated families reportedly did not have access to adequate social services, including education and health facilities. In addition an estimated 2,510 families remained without a timeframe or destination for their impending relocation at year’s end.
The government also failed to compensate most of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) relocated forcibly from the Tokwe-Mukosi area during flooding in 2014. Approximately 3,125 families were legally entitled to compensation.
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not respect these prohibitions. Government officials pressured local chiefs and ZANU-PF loyalists to monitor and report on persons suspected of supporting political parties other than ZANU-PF. Through threats and intimidation, local chiefs and ZANU-PF loyalists also compelled individuals, mostly in rural areas, to contribute money toward President Mugabe’s birthday celebrations.
Government entities manipulated the distribution of government-provided food aid, agricultural inputs, and access to other government assistance programs such as education assistance to exclude suspected political opposition supporters and to compel support for ZANU-PF.
In September the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission announced ZANU-PF was interfering in the distribution of government food aid for personal political gain at the expense of deserving beneficiaries. An NGO reported that more than 122 incidents of partisan distribution of food aid took place across the country from January to July.
The government forcibly displaced persons from their homes, often without providing adequate notice, consulting victims, or providing alternative accommodation. According to local human rights and humanitarian NGOs, sporadic evictions continued. In September police evicted approximately 50 families from a farm in Darwendale. Media reported police accused the families of illegal settlement and burned the families’ houses, personal property, and food.
Land seizures remained a serious problem. According to the attorney general and Ministry of Lands, every white-owned farm in the country was gazetted (officially announced as available in state media) and effectively became state property. According to the Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe, after authorities gazetted a property, it was transferred to a politically connected individual at the first available opportunity. The exact number of remaining white commercial farmers was unknown; those remaining continued to be targeted, harassed, and threatened with eviction by farm beneficiaries, unemployed youth, and individuals hired by those standing to benefit. Abuse of the land reform laws continued, with invasions and seizures of noncommercial land on the privately owned wildlife conservancies and with the collusion of high-ranking government officials and provincial ZANU-PF party structures and leaders.
Titleholders who lost their homes or properties–where most of their life earnings were invested–were not compensated. By 2013 between 180 and 230 farmers had accepted settlements worth 5 to 10 percent of the value of their investments. As a result, like their former farm workers whom the new farm owners evicted, there were scores of destitute elderly former farmers.
Farm allocations continued to be politicized and used as a reward for political support to ZANU-PF. Beneficiaries divided many reallocated farms near cities for sale as small residential lots and sold them for personal gain without any compensation to the titleholders.
For example, in 2014 Raymond Ndhlukula, deputy chief secretary in the President’s Office, seized a farm near Figtree, Matabeleland South, while police watched. David Conolly, the lawful owner of the property, approached the courts for protection and received a High Court injunction against the seizure. When Conolly confronted Ndhlukula regarding the court order, Conolly alleged Ndhlukula stated he was a senior civil servant and “white people could not come before the courts of Zimbabwe regarding land matters.” Ndhlukula’s workers eventually forced Conolly off the property. Conolly filed an urgent high court application regarding the seizure of his farm, and Ndhlukula was found in contempt of the court order, which Ndhlukula appealed. On September 13, Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora filed for Conolly’s eviction–giving him seven workdays to vacate the property–even though the case remained before the Supreme Court.
On February 3, a ZANU-PF provincial chairperson reportedly seized a farm in Masvingo belonging to Yvonne Goddard, a widow who had lived on the farm for 45 years. The ZANU-PF official justified the invasion by arguing the seizure was lawful as the farm was underutilized.
ZANU-PF supporters also forcibly seized the property of nonwhite landowners. For example, in August dozens of youth linked to ZANU-PF invaded the farm of Victor Matemadanda, secretary of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), after he lost favor with the ruling party.
There were other reports of farmers forced off their farms, despite being in possession of a court order allowing them to remain on the property, and denied the opportunity to collect their personal belongings. Black farm workers were beaten, intimidated, or displaced. Police in most cases did not intervene while invaders and looters carried on their activities, nor did police enforce court judgments evicting squatters on illegally seized properties.
The law permits the interception and monitoring of any communication (including telephone, postal mail, e-mail, and internet traffic) in the course of transmission through a telecommunication, postal, or other system in the country. Civil liberties advocates claimed the government used the law to stifle freedom of speech and target political and civil society activists.
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
While the law provides for the right of private-sector workers to form and join unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively, other provisions of law abrogated these rights. Public-sector workers may not form or join trade unions but may form associations that bargain collectively and strike. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, provides that the labor court handle complaints of such discrimination, and may direct reinstatement of workers fired due to such discrimination.
The law provides for the registrar of the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare to supervise the election of officers of workers’ and employers’ organizations, to cancel or postpone elections, and to change the venue of an election. The law also grants the minister extensive powers to regulate union activities. For example, the minister has the authority to veto collective bargaining agreements perceived to be harmful to the economy as well as to appoint an investigator who can, without prior notice, enter trade union premises, question any employee, and inspect and copy any books, records, or other documents. The Labor Amendment Act empowers the minister to order an investigation of a trade union or employers’ organization and to appoint an administrator to run its affairs. There were no reports of investigations during the year.
The law strictly regulates the right to strike. Strikes are limited to disputes of interest. The law provides that a majority of the employees must agree to strike by voting in a secret ballot. Strike procedure requirements include a mandatory 30-day reconciliation period and referral to binding arbitration (in essential services and in nonessential services where the parties agree or where the dispute involves rights). Following an attempt to conciliate a dispute of interest and a labor officer’s issuance of a certificate of no settlement, the party proposing a collective job action must provide 14 days’ written notice of intent to resort to such action, including specifying the grounds for the intended action, in order legally to call a strike. In April and May, more than 4,000 National Railway of Zimbabwe (NRZ) workers went on a spontaneous strike to protest 15 months of salary arrears.
Members of the police and army are the only legally recognized essential services employees and may not strike, but the law allows the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare to declare any nonessential service an essential service if a strike is deemed a danger to the population. No provisions prohibit employers from hiring replacement workers in the event of strike. The NRZ hired replacement workers when employees went on strike in April and May. The law also allows employers to sue workers for liability during unlawful strikes, with penalties for conviction that include fines, up to five years’ imprisonment, or both. The constitution does not extend the right of collective bargaining to security forces. In late 2014 the government, employer organizations, and union representatives, according to the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU), signed an agreement detailing how government security forces should conduct themselves in the event of a strike or other collective action.
Collective bargaining agreements applied to all workers in an industry, not just union members. Collective bargaining takes place at the enterprise and industry levels. At the enterprise level, work councils negotiate collective agreements, which become binding if approved by 50 percent of the workers in the bargaining unit. Industry level bargaining takes place within the framework of the National Employment Councils (NEC). Unions representing at least 50 percent of the workers may bargain with the authorization of the Minister of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare. The law encourages the creation of workers’ committees in enterprises where less than 50 percent of workers are unionized.
To go into effect, the ministry must announce collective bargaining agreements, thus giving the minister the power to veto the agreement. The Labor Amendment Act expands the minister’s power to veto a collective bargaining agreement if the minister deems it to be “contrary to public interest.” Workers and employers at the enterprise level also may come to a binding agreement outside of the official framework. Despite this provision, the ministry could block indefinitely any collective bargaining agreement if it was not announced officially.
Although the law does not permit national civil servants to collectively bargain, the Apex Council, a group of public service associations, represents civil servants in job-related negotiations with the Public Service Commission. In January the council threatened a nationwide strike before successfully negotiating a basic salary adjustment for civil servants.
The Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Penalties for conviction of violations of freedom of association or collective bargaining laws range from a fine to imprisonment for a period not to exceed two years but were insufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures often were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.
The government did not respect the workers’ right to form or join unions, strike, and bargain collectively. In January, ZRP officers beat protesters and arrested three RTUZ leaders following a demonstration regarding delayed payment of civil servant salaries and annual bonuses. In July the government publicly threatened violence against anyone participating in a nationwide strike. Worker organizations are loosely affiliated with political parties.
Government interference with trade union activity was common. Authorities frequently withheld or delayed the registration certificate for a number of unions. Police and state intelligence services regularly attended and monitored trade union activities such as meetings. Police or ZANU-PF supporters sometimes prevented unions from holding meetings with their members and carrying out organizational activities. The International Labor Organization noted that the government took some steps to address the concerns raised by a 2010 commission of inquiry. The inquiry found the government responsible for serious violations of fundamental rights by its security forces, including a clear pattern of intimidation that included arrests, detentions, violence, and torture against members nationwide of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)–an umbrella group of unions affiliated with the opposition MDC-T.
Although the law does not require unions to notify police of public gatherings, police required such notification. Police permitted the ZCTU to march in the country’s six regional capitals early in the year.
In September police twice banned all demonstrations in the Harare Central Police District in response to social movement protests, which included union members.
Although the ministry conducted training for security forces on the Public Order and Security Act, the training did not change security sector attitudes. By law the government could fine and imprison union members for organizing an illegal strike, and unions risked a 12-month suspension of their registration for minor infractions.
There were reports that some ZCTU affiliates were able to engage in collective bargaining with employers without interference from the government. Nevertheless, members of the ZCTU stated employers did not recognize their affiliates within the NECs. Workers’ committees existed in parallel with trade unions. Their role was to negotiate shop floor grievances, while that of the trade unions was to negotiate industry level problems, notably wages. Trade unions regarded the existence of such a parallel body as an arrangement that employers potentially could use to undermine the role of the unions.
According to International Trade Union Confederation reports, employers frequently abused institutional weakness by creating a deadlock in the bargaining process, i.e., by forcing the referral of the dispute to arbitration and then to court, forestalling a decision in a reasonable timeframe. Agricultural workers experienced verbal and physical attacks by employers during negotiations. The ZFTU reported 280 cases of physical violence against workers at Chinese-owned companies.
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/ .
The law prohibits employment or occupational discrimination based on race, color, gender, tribe, political opinion, creed, place of origin, disability, HIV status, or pregnancy. The law does not expressly prohibit employment discrimination regarding age, language, citizenship, social origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or non-HIV related communicable diseases. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, disability, and sexual orientation (see section 6).
The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Labor legislation prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, and an employer may be held liable for civil remedies if found to be in violation of provisions against “unfair labor practices,” including sexual harassment. The law does not specify penalties for conviction of such violations. Women commonly faced sexual harassment in the workplace (see section 6).
There were no formal complaints of wage discrimination filed with the Ministry of Labor; however, women’s salaries lagged behind those of men in most sectors. Unions expressed their concern regarding wage disparity between management and employees.
There was a relative lack of women in decision-making positions, despite a constitutional requirement that both genders be equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level. In 2014 the share of women in wage employment in the nonagricultural sector was 37 percent, while their share in senior and middle management was 24 percent.
Discrimination against migrant workers occurred, especially those employed in the informal sector. Discrimination with respect to political affiliation also occurred. In 2015 a village headman in Marondera was fired for being affiliated with the MDC-T. Also in 2015 a headman in Makoni Central denied a MDC-T-affiliated applicant a job in the rural health clinic because he said the clinic could not employ an opposition party member.
Banks targeted union workers for dismissal, according to the ZCTU. Persons with HIV/AIDS and LGBTI persons faced discrimination in employment. White farmers were sometimes deprived of their livelihoods and property through illegal farm seizures. Employers discriminated against members of minority ethnic groups who they often perceived as opposition supporters. Disabled persons faced social and employment discrimination and lack of access to many workplaces.
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.