Zimbabwe

Executive Summary

Zimbabwe suffered serious economic contractions in 2019 and 2020 due to the economic mismanagement, the extended effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate shocks that crippled agriculture and electricity generation. According to the government of Zimbabwe, the economy recovered strongly, growing by 7.8 percent, in 2021 although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates the economy grew by 6.1 percent, thanks to increased agricultural production, high commodity prices, and improved capacity utilization in the manufacturing sector. The government expects the economy to grow by 5.5 percent in 2022 as the negative impacts of COVID-19 subside. International financial institutions also project positive but more modest growth, with the IMF forecasting a real GDP growth of 3.1 percent in 2022. Inflation remained high in 2021, but steadily declined to end the year at 60.6 percent. Authorities attributed the decline to the introduction of a weekly foreign exchange auction system in June 2020 and fiscal consolidation that resulted in near balanced budgets in 2020 and 2021. However, the inflation rate has continued to rise to 72.7 percent by March 2022 due to the negative effects of the Russia-Ukraine war on commodity prices as well as the depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar. Zimbabwe’s local currency has lost 79 percent of its value relative to the U.S. dollar since the government adopted an auction system on June 23, 2020. A gap between the auction and parallel-market exchange rates has persisted, with U.S. dollars more than twice as expensive on the parallel market.

To improve the ease of doing business, the government formed the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) in 2020, intended as a one-stop-shop to promote and facilitate both domestic and foreign investment in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s incentives to attract FDI include tax breaks for new investment by foreign and domestic companies, and making capital expenditures on new factories, machinery, and improvements fully tax deductible. The government waives import taxes and surtaxes on capital equipment. It has made gradual progress in improving the business environment by reducing regulatory costs, but policy inconsistency and weak institutions have continued to frustrate businesses. Corruption remains rife and there is little protection of property rights, particularly with respect to agricultural land. Historically, the government has committed to protect property rights but has also expropriated land without compensation.

The Finance Act (No 2) at the end of 2020 amended the Indigenization Act by removing language designating diamonds and platinum as the only minerals subject to indigenization (requiring majority ownership by indigenous Zimbabweans), finally ending indigenization requirements in all sectors. However, the new legislation also granted broad discretion to the government to designate minerals as subject to indigenization in the future. The government subsequently issued statements to reassure investors that no minerals will be subject to indigenization, including diamonds and platinum.

The government ended its 2019 ban on using foreign currencies for domestic transactions in March 2020. However, the authorities decreed businesses selling in foreign exchange must surrender 20 percent of the receipts to the central bank in exchange for local currency at the overvalued auction rate. Exporters must surrender 40 percent of foreign currency earnings at the unfavorable auction rate.

Zimbabwe owes approximately US$10.7 billion (US$6.5 billion of which is in arrears) to international financial institutions accounting for 71 percent of the country’s GDP. The country’s high external debt (public and private) limits its ability to access official development assistance at concessional rates. Additionally, domestic banks do not offer financing for periods longer than two years, with most financing limited to 180 days or less. The sectors that attract the most investor interest include agriculture (tobacco, in particular), mining, energy, and tourism. Zimbabwe has a well-earned reputation for the high education levels of its workers.

Although the United States has a targeted sanctions program against Zimbabwe, it currently applies to only 83 individuals and 37 entities.  The U.S. Government imposed sanctions against specifically identified individuals and entities in Zimbabwe, as a result of the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and other persons that undermine democratic institutions or processes in Zimbabwe, violate human rights, or facilitate corruption.  U.S. companies can do business with Zimbabwean individuals and companies that are not on the specially designated nationals (SDN) list.

After reaching US$745 million in 2018, Zimbabwe witnessed significant declines in foreign direct investment (FDI). According to data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), FDI inflows into Zimbabwe fell from US$280 million in 2019 to US$194 million in 2020.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 157 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
Global Innovation Index 2021 113 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 (D) https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/  
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 1,140 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD   

(D) – Information suppressed to avoid disclosure of data of individual companies.

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

To attract FDI and improve the country’s competitiveness, the government has encouraged public-private partnerships and emphasized the need to improve the investment climate by lowering the cost of doing business as well as restoring the rule of law and sanctity of contracts. Implementation, however, has been limited.

The government amended the Indigenization Act by removing diamonds and platinum from minerals subject to indigenization (requiring majority ownership by indigenous Zimbabweans), although the new legislation appeared to grant broad discretion to the GOZ to designate minerals as subject to indigenization in the future. Subsequently, the GOZ reassured investors that no minerals will be subject to indigenization, including diamonds and platinum. However, there are smaller sectors “reserved” for Zimbabweans (see below).

To improve the ease of doing business, the government enacted legislation that led to the formation of the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) in 2020. ZIDA replaced the Zimbabwe Investment Authority and serves as a one-stop-shop center in promoting and facilitating both domestic and foreign investment in Zimbabwe.

While the government has committed to prioritizing investment retention, there are still no mechanisms or formal structures to maintain ongoing dialogue with investors.

Foreign and domestic private entities have a right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity, but foreign ownership of businesses in certain reserved sectors is limited.

Foreign investors are free to invest in most sectors without any restrictions as the government aims to bring in new technologies, value-add manufacturing, and generate employment. According to the ZIDA Act, “foreign investors may invest in, and reinvest profits of such investments into, any and all sectors of the economy of Zimbabwe, and in the same form and under the same conditions as defined for Zimbabweans under the applicable laws and regulations of Zimbabwe.” However, the government reserves certain sectors for Zimbabweans such as passenger buses, taxis and car hire services, employment agencies, grain milling, bakeries, advertising, dairy processing, and estate agencies.

The country screens FDI through the ZIDA in liaison with relevant line ministries to confirm compliance with the country’s laws.

According to the country’s laws, U.S. investors are not especially disadvantaged or singled out by any of the ownership or control mechanisms relative to other foreign investors. In its investment guidelines, the government states its commitment to non-discrimination between foreign and domestic investors and among foreign investors.

In a 2019 review, Global Witness recommended reform of Zimbabwe’s shadowy diamond sector through publication of all diamond mining contracts, shareholdings, and their ultimate beneficial owners; production of timely annual reports, including audited accounts detailing revenues raised and all payments to the Treasury and all transfers to private shareholders. https://www.globalwitness.org/en/blog/time-zimbabwes-opaque-diamond-sector/ 

The Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) published in October 2021 and March 2022 reports focused on the investment climate around the extractive sector. Though the reports view the extractive sector through the lens of PRC engagement, the information on laws, regulations, and gaps in legislation and enforcement remain relevant for all interested investors.

  • The Handbook of Zimbabwe-China Economic Relations:
  • Zimbabwe Open for Business: Progress Check on Implementation:

Policy inconsistency, administrative delays and costs, and corruption hinder business facilitation. Zimbabwe does not have a fully online business registration process, though one can begin the process and conduct a name search online via the ZimConnect web portal. The government created the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA, https://www.zidainvest.com/ ) which replaced the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA), the Special Economic Zones Authority, and the Joint Venture Unit to oversee the licensing and implementation of investment projects in the country. The Agency has established a one-stop investment services center (OSISC) which houses several agencies that play a role in the licensing, establishment, and implementation of investment projects including the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), National Social Security Authority (NSSA), Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA), Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, the State Enterprises Restructuring Agency, and specialized investment units within relevant line ministries. The business registration process currently takes 27 days.

Zimbabwe does not promote or incentivize outward investment due to the country’s tight foreign exchange reserves. Although the government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad, any outward investment requires approval by exchange control authorities. Firms interested in outward investment would face difficulty accessing the limited foreign currency at the more favorable official exchange rate.

3. Legal Regime

The government officially encourages competition within the private sector and seeks to improve the ease of doing business, but the bureaucracy within regulatory agencies lacks transparency, and corruption is prevalent. Investors complain of policy inconsistency and unpredictability. Moreover, Zimbabwe does not have a centralized online location where key regulatory actions are published, and investors must contact ZIDA.

The government at times uses statutory instruments and temporary presidential powers to alter legislation impacting economic policy. These powers have limited duration – the government must pass legislation within six months for the presidential powers to become permanent. These measures, which can appear without warning, often surprise businesses and lack implementation details, leading firms to delay major business decisions until gaining clarity. For example, the government unexpectedly prohibited the use of foreign currencies for domestic transactions in June 2019 but lifted the ban in March 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and growing economic pressure. The government has made changes to the share of foreign currency earnings exporters must surrender to the central bank without warning or stakeholder consultations. The standard legislative process, on the other hand, does provide ample opportunity for public review and comment before the final passage of new laws. The development of regulations follows a standard process and includes a period for public review and comment.

According to the Department of State’s 2021 Fiscal Transparency Report, public budget documents do not provide a full picture of government expenditures, and there is a notable lack of transparency regarding state-owned enterprises and the extraction of natural resources. Information on public finances is generally unreliable, as actual revenues and expenditures have deviated significantly from the enacted budgets. Information on some debt obligations is publicly available, but not information on contingent debt.

Zimbabwe is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and it is a signatory to the SADC and COMESA trade protocols establishing free trade areas (FTA) with the aim of growing into a customs union. Zimbabwe is also a member of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which came into force on January 1, 2021, with the aim of creating a single continental market and paving the way for the establishment of a customs union. Although the country is also a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), it normally notifies only SADC and COMESA of measures it intends to implement.

According to the country’s law and constitution, Zimbabwe has an independent judicial system whose decisions are binding on the other branches of government. The country has written commercial law and, in 2019, established four commercial courts at the magistrate level. The government also trained 55 magistrates in the same year. Administration of justice in commercial cases that do not touch on political interests is still generally impartial, but for politicized cases government interference in the court system has hindered the delivery of impartial justice. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and are adjudicated in the national court system.

Foreign investors are free to invest in most sectors including mining without any restrictions. In 2020, the government amended the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act which required majority ownership by indigenous Zimbabweans to attain its goal to bring in new technologies, generate employment, and value-added manufacturing. In certain sectors, such as primary agriculture, transport services, and retail and wholesale trade including distribution, foreign investors may not own more than 35 percent equity.

The ZIDA ( https://www.zidainvest.com/ ), which now acts a one-stop shop for investors, promotes and facilitates both local and foreign direct investment.

The government officially encourages competition within the private sector according to the Zimbabwe Competition Act. The Act provided for the formation of the Tariff and Competition Commission charged with investigating restrictive practices, mergers, and monopolies in the country. The Competition and Tariff Commission (CTC) is an autonomous statutory body established in 2001 with the dual mandate of implementing and enforcing Zimbabwe’s competition policy and law and executing the country’s trade tariffs policy. The Act provides for transparent norms and procedures. Although the decision of the Commission is final, any aggrieved party can appeal the decision to the Administrative Court.

In 2000, the government began to seize privately-owned agricultural land and transfer ownership to government officials and other regime supporters. In April 2000, the government amended the constitution to grant the state’s right to assert eminent domain, with compensation limited to the improvements made on the land. In September 2005, the government amended the constitution again to transfer ownership of all expropriated land to the government. Since the passage of this amendment, top government officials, supporters of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party, and members of the security forces have continued to disrupt production on commercial farms, including those owned by foreign investors, those owned by black indigenous farmers, and those covered by bilateral investment agreements. Similarly, government officials have sought to impose politically connected individuals as indigenous partners on privately and foreign-owned wildlife conservancies.

In 2006, the government began to issue 99-year leases for land seized from commercial farmers, retaining the right to withdraw the lease at any time for any reason. These leases, however, are not readily transferable, and banks do not accept them as collateral for borrowing and investment purposes. The government continues to seize commercial farms without compensating titleholders, who have no recourse to the courts. The seizures continue to raise serious questions about respect for property rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

In 2017, the government announced its intention to compensate farmers who lost their land and made small partial payments to the most vulnerable claimants. In July 2020, the government and white commercial farmers who lost land to the land reform program signed a US$3.5 billion Global Compensation Deed Agreement for improvements made by commercial farmers on the farms. The government promised to pay a 50 percent deposit within 12 months of signing the agreement and 25 percent of the remainder in each subsequent year so that it makes full payment over five years. Given fiscal constraints, it remains unclear how the government will finance this sum. As of July 2021, the GOZ paid a token US$1 million towards compensating former commercial farmers, but it still lacks a credible plan to pay the remaining US$3.499 billion and has pushed back its deadline for doing so.

In the event of insolvency or bankruptcy, Zimbabwe applies the Insolvency Act. All creditors have equal rights against an insolvent estate. Zimbabwe does not criminalize bankruptcy unless it is the result of fraud, but the government blacklists a person declared bankrupt from undertaking any new business.

4. Industrial Policies

Government incentives to foreign investors depend on the form of investment, the sector, and whether the GOZ awards the investment national project status. For investment in industrial parks and tourism development zones, investors are exempt from paying tax for the first five years, after which they will pay tax at the rate of 25 percent (the normal tax rate is 35 percent). For build, own, operate, and transfer (BOOT) and build, operate, and transfer (BOT) joint ventures, investors are exempt from paying taxes for the first five years after which they will pay tax at the rate of 15 percent. Investors in the mining sector who export 50 percent of output benefit from a reduced corporation tax of 20 percent and are exempt from import duties on capital goods while losses are carried forward indefinitely for mining operations. Moreover, the government generally allows for duty exemptions in the importation of raw materials used in the manufacture of goods for export. In addition to these incentives, investments with national project status such as those in the renewable energy sector are allowed to borrow on local capital markets where lenders enjoy incentives including tax exemption on interest.

The GOZ set up a Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank in 2018 so marginalized women could access credit facilities with affordable rates and innovative women-centered financial products and services.

The GOZ encourages investment in renewable energy by waiving payment of duty on importation of solar equipment including batteries and panels.

Zimbabwe now has approximately 183 companies operating in Export Processing Zones (EPZs). Benefits include a five-year tax holiday, duty-free importation of raw materials and capital equipment for use in the EPZ, and no tax liability from capital gains arising from the sale of property forming part of the investment in EPZs. The government generally requires foreign capital comprise a majority of the investment in an EPZ-designated company and requires the company to export at least 80 percent of output. The latter requirement has constrained foreign investment in the zones. ZIDA took over the regulation of EPZs and the Special Economic Zones. However, to date, activity in special economic zones has been limited despite the incentives.

Although there are no discriminatory import or export policies affecting foreign firms, the government’s approval criteria heavily favor export-oriented projects. Import duties and related taxes range as high as 110 percent.

Foreigners intending to engage in meetings or discussions for business purposes are advised to secure a business visa for entry into Zimbabwe. Individuals found to be engaging in business-related activities on a tourist visa have been arrested, expelled from the country, and/or fined. A passport, visa, return ticket, and adequate funds are required to enter Zimbabwe.

In 2019, the government approved the Zimbabwe local content strategy to promote local value addition and linkages through utilization of domestic resources. According to the strategy, the country wants to increase local content levels in prioritized sectors from 25 to approximately 80 percent by 2023. However, the government has found it difficult to implement such a strategy.

There are no general performance requirements for businesses located outside Export Processing and Special Economic Zones. Government policy, however, encourages investment in enterprises that contribute to rural development, job creation, exports, the addition of domestic value to primary products, use of local materials, and the transfer of appropriate technologies.

Government participation is required for new investments in strategic industries such as energy, public water provision, and railways. The terms of government participation are determined on a case-by-case basis during license approval. The few foreign investors (for example, from China, Russia, and Iran) in reserved strategic industries have either purchased existing companies or have supplied equipment and spares on credit.

While foreign investors are not currently forced to use domestic content in production, the government is in the process of developing a local content policy designed to encourage the use of local inputs in production.

The government does not require foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance. Only banks are required to maintain all their data in the country through the escrow agreement.

The new government investment guidelines do not permit mandatory and/or arbitrary performance requirements that distort or limit the expansion of trade and investment.

5. Protection of Property Rights

The government enforces property rights in residential and commercial properties in cities although this is not the case with agricultural land, as discussed above. Mortgages and liens do exist for urban properties although liquidity constraints have led to a fall in the number of mortgage loans. The recording of mortgages is generally reliable. The government retains ownership of all agricultural land with 99-year leases guaranteeing use. These leases remain too weak to serve as collateral for bank loans.

Zimbabwe follows international patent and trademark conventions, and it is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Generally, the government seeks to honor intellectual property ownership and rights, although a lack of expertise and manpower as well as corruption limit its ability to enforce these obligations. Pirating of books, videos, music, and computer software is common.

The government has not enacted new IP related laws or regulations over the past year. The country does not publish information on the seizures of counterfeit goods.

Zimbabwe is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

6. Financial Sector

Zimbabwe has two stock exchanges in Harare and Victoria Falls. The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) in Harare currently has 51 publicly listed companies with a total market capitalization of US$13 billion as of March 16, 2022. Stock and money markets are open to foreign portfolio investment. Foreign investors can take up to a maximum of 49 percent of any locally listed company with any single investor limited to a maximum of 15 percent of the outstanding shares. Regarding the money market, foreign investors may buy up to 100 percent of the primary issues of bonds and stocks and there is no limit on the level of individual participation.

There is a 1.48 percent withholding tax on the sale of marketable securities, while the tax on purchasing stands at 1.73 percent. Totaling 3.21 percent, the rates are comparable with the average of 3.5 percent for the region. As a way of raising funds for the state, the government mandated insurance companies and pension funds invest between 25 and 35 percent of their portfolios in prescribed government bonds. Zimbabwe’s high inflation has greatly eroded the value of domestic debt instruments and resulted in negative real interest rates on government bonds.

Zimbabwe launched the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange (VFEX) in September 2020. Four companies have listed on the VFEX with a market capitalization of US$256 million as of March 16, 2022.

The country respects the IMF’s Article VIII and refrains from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions provided there is sufficient foreign exchange to finance the transactions. Depending on foreign currency availability, foreign companies with investments in Zimbabwe can borrow locally on market terms.

Although credit is allocated on market terms and foreigners are allowed to borrow on the local market, lack of foreign exchange constrains the financial sector from extending credit to the private sector.

Three major international commercial banks and several regional and domestic banks operate in Zimbabwe, but they have reduced their branch network substantially in line with declining business opportunities. The central bank (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)) maintains the banking sector is generally stable despite a harsh operating environment characterized by high credit risk, high inflation, and foreign exchange constraints. Most Zimbabwean correspondent banking relationships are in jeopardy or have already been severed due to international bank efforts to reduce risk (de-risking) connected to the high penalties for non-compliance with prudential anti-money laundering/counter-terrorism finance (AML/CFT) guidelines in developed countries. However, in March 2022, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Zimbabwe from the “gray list” in response to “significant progress in improving its AML/CFT regime” and Zimbabwe is no longer subject to the FATF’s increased monitoring process.

As of December 31, 2021, the sector had 19 operating institutions, comprising 13 commercial banks, five building societies, and one savings bank. According to the RBZ, as of December 2021, 11out of 13 operating commercial banking institutions and two out of five building societies complied with the prescribed minimum core capital requirements. The level of non-performing loans rose slightly from 0.31 percent in December 2020 to 0.94 percent by December 2021. The RBZ attributed the increase to the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The RBZ reports the total loans-to-deposits ratio rose from 40.4 percent in December 2020 to 48.3 percent in December 2021.

According to the central bank, total deposits (including interbank deposits), rose from ZWL$204.13 billion in December 2020 to ZWL$476.35 billion in December 2021, an increase of 76 percent in U.S. dollar terms. The total assets of the banking sector stood at ZWL$763 billion or US$7 billion at the end of December 2021 up from ZWL$349.6 billion or US$4.3 billion on December 31, 2020.

The government set aside US$1 million toward administrative costs related to the setting up of a SWF in its 2016 budget. Although the government proposed to capitalize the SWF through a charge of up to 25 percent on royalty collections on mineral sales, as well as through a special dividend on the sale of diamond, gas, granite and other minerals, it has not done so. In 2021, state media listed the SWF as a shareholder of a new major mining company in Zimbabwe.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Zimbabwe has 107 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), defined as companies wholly owned by the state. A list of the SOEs appears here . Many SOEs support vital infrastructure including energy, mining, and agribusiness. Competition within the sectors where SOEs operate tends to be limited. However, the government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) invites private investors to participate in infrastructure projects through public-private partnerships (PPPs). Most SOEs have public function mandates, although in more recent years, they perform hybrid activities of satisfying their public functions while seeking profits. SOEs should have independent boards, but in some instances such as the recent case of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), the government allows the entities to function without boards.

Zimbabwe does not appear to subscribe to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines on corporate governance of SOEs. SOEs are subject to the same taxes and same value-added tax rebate policies as private sector companies. SOEs face several challenges that include persistent power outages, mismanagement, lack of maintenance, inadequate investment, a lack of liquidity and access to credit, and debt overhangs. As a result, SOEs have performed poorly. Few SOEs produce publicly available financial data and even fewer provide audited financial data. SOE poor management and lack of profitability has imposed significant costs on the rest of the economy.

Although the government committed itself to privatize most SOEs in the 1990s, it only successfully privatized two parastatals. In 2018, the government announced it would privatize 48 SOEs. So far, it has only targeted five in the telecommunications, postal services, and financial sectors for immediate reform, but the privatizations have not yet concluded. The government encourages foreign investors to take advantage of the privatization program to invest in the country, but inter-SOE debts of nearly USD 1 billion pose challenges for privatization plans. According to the government’s investment guidelines, it is still working out the process under which it will dispose its shareholding to the private sector.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Awareness of standards for responsible business conduct (RBC) is mainly driven by the private sector through the Standards Association of Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean government has not taken any measures to encourage RBC and it does not take into account RBC policies or practices in procurement decisions.

The private sector developed the National Corporate Governance Code of Zimbabwe (ZimCode), which is a framework designed to guide Zimbabwean companies on RBC. The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, an industrial advocacy group, , has a standing committee on business ethics and standards that drives ethical conduct within the Zimbabwean private sector. The organization has developed its own charter according to OECD guidelines, highlighting good corporate governance and ethical behavior. Firms that demonstrate corporate social responsibility do not automatically garner favorable treatment from consumers, employees, or the government.

The U.S Department of Labor’s (DOL) report https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods  published in September 2020 reports that children work in Zimbabwe’s sugarcane and tobacco industries. The DOL’s report   https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/zimbabwe  found children in Zimbabwe engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in mining, agriculture, and tobacco production. Law enforcement agencies lack resources to enforce child labor laws. The COVID-19 crisis severely limited the government’s ability to combat the worst forms of child labor. The country’s continuing economic decline and school closures due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions likely increased the number of children working in informal labor sectors, including those that harbor the worst forms of child labor, to support family incomes.

The government regularly thwarts union efforts to demonstrate with violence and excessive force and harasses labor leaders. Police and state intelligence services regularly attend and monitor trade union activities, sometimes preventing unions from holding meetings with their members and carrying out organizational activities. Although unions are not required by law to notify police of public gatherings, police require such notification in practice. Those unions engaging in strikes deemed illegal risk fines and imprisonment.

The government ordered in March 2021 the eviction of 13,000 members of the Chilonga community in the southeastern part of the country, but eventually backed down after a court ruled in favor of a temporary relief. Although the Chilonga villagers appealed the eviction citing unconstitutionality of sections of the Communal Land Act the government used in its eviction order, the High Court ruled in favor of the government but recommended a review of the Act.

Although the Zimbabwean government has expressed its intention to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) principles to strengthen accountability, good governance, and transparency in the mining sector, it has yet to launch an EITI program. A domestic initiative called the Zimbabwe Mining Revenue Transparency Initiative (ZMRTI) has produced limited results.

Zimbabwe is not signatory to the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol issued a withhold release order on Zimbabwean rough diamonds from Marange in 2019 after an investigation concluded that forced labor contributed to the mining activity. Widespread artisanal and small-scale gold mining presents a threat to the environment, and informal miners have little-to-no safety and labor protections.

Department of State

Department of the Treasury

Department of Labor

Zimbabwe developed a national climate policy in 2017 which provides an overarching framework that gives the country basic principles and guidance under which climate change response strategy will be implemented. The government has stated its intention to reduce emissions of sectoral greenhouse gasses without specifying action plans to achieve these objectives. The policy does not specify any regulatory incentives towards achievement of set objectives.

9. Corruption

Endemic corruption presents a serious challenge to businesses operating in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s scores on governance, transparency, and corruption perception indices are well below the regional average. U.S. firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI, with many corruption allegations stemming from opaque procurement processes.

In theory, the government has specified laws that require managers and directors to declare their financial interests in the public sector, although these may not be followed in practice. As noted below, Zimbabwe does not have laws that guard against conflict of interest with respect to the conduct of private companies, but existing rules on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange compel listed companies to disclose, through annual reports, minimum disclosure requirements.

While anti-corruption laws exist and extend to family members of officials and political parties, the government tends to engage in selective enforcement against the opposition while engaging in “catch and release” of government officials and their business partners. As a result, Transparency International ranked Zimbabwe 157 out of 175 countries and territories surveyed in 2020 with respect to perceptions of corruption. In 2005, the government enacted an Anti-Corruption Act that established a government-appointed Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), the structure of which has evolved over time. Following the end of Robert Mugabe’s rule in November 2017, the government pledged to address governance and corruption challenges by appointing a new ZACC chaired by a former High Court Judge and granting it new powers. President Mnangagwa also established a special unit within his office to deal with corruption cases. Despite these developments, the government has a track record of prosecuting individuals selectively, focusing on those who have fallen out of favor with the ruling party and ignoring transgressions by members of the favored elite. Accusations of corruption seldom result in formal charges and convictions. Zimbabwe does not provide any special protections to NGOs investigating corruption in the public sector. Journalists reporting on high-level corruption have suffered from arbitrary arrests and lengthy detentions.

While Zimbabwe does not have laws that guard against conflict of interest with respect to the conduct of private companies, existing rules on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange compel listed companies to disclose, through annual reports, minimum disclosure requirements. Regarding SOEs, the government has specified laws that require managers and directors to declare their financial interests. In 2016, the World Bank report on the extent of conflict-of-interest regulation index (0-10), put Zimbabwe at 5.

While Zimbabwe signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2004 and ratified the treaty in 2007, it is not party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:

Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC)
172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue,
Harare.
+263 (242) 369602; +263 71 952 9483
reports@zacc.co.zw

Contact at a “watchdog” organization:

Transparency International Zimbabwe
96 Central Avenue,
P O Box CY 434, Causeway
Harare
+263 4 793 246/7
tiz@tizim.org ; info@tizim.org 

10. Political and Security Environment

Political parties, labor organizations, and civil society groups sometimes encounter state-sponsored intimidation and repression from government security forces and Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) – linked activists. Disagreements between and within political parties occasionally result in violence targeting political party members. Political tensions and civil unrest persist since the end of Robert Mugabe’s rule in November 2017. On August 1, 2018, the army fired upon people demonstrating against the delay in announcing official presidential election results, killing six civilians. In response to January 2019 demonstrations against rising fuel prices, security forces killed 17, raped 16, injured hundreds, and arrested more than 800 people over the course of several weeks. The crackdown targeted members of the main opposition party, civil society groups, and labor leaders.

In 2020 and 2021, the government arrested and detained journalists, several leaders of opposition parties, and trade union activists for organizing demonstrations against corruption and allegedly violating bail conditions. Police also arrested three women members of the opposition party, MDC Alliance (now Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC)), including a member of parliament for violating lockdown measures when they demonstrated against corruption and food shortages during the first of several lockdowns imposed on the country to fight COVID-19. They were subsequently abducted from police custody and tortured by alleged security agents. Since then, the government routinely arrests and detains the three leaders whenever they speak out against the government. Political tensions also prevailed during campaigns for the March 26, 2022 by-elections. On February 26, 2022, ZANU-PF-affiliated youths allegedly killed CCC rally attendee Mboneli Ncube and injured 22 others after they stormed a CCC rally in Kwekwe. The CCC also reported attacks targeted at its activists and supporters across the country.

Political uncertainty remains high. Violent crime, such as assault, smash and grabs, and home invasion, is common. Armed robberies perpetrated by serving members of the army and police have increased. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. Incidents of violence have typically not targeted investment projects.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Decades of political and economic crises have led to the emigration of many of Zimbabwe’s skilled and well-educated citizens. Formal sector employment has fallen significantly. Anecdotal evidence shows widespread youth unemployment as the country continues to produce graduates without a matching growth in employment opportunities. According to the Labor Force Survey, Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate stood at 16.4 percent in 2019, the latest available data. As a result, most end up joining the informal sector estimated at over 85 percent of the workforce. The government strongly encourages foreign investors to make maximum use of Zimbabwean management and technical personnel and any investment proposal that involves the employment of foreigners must present a strong case to obtain work and residence permits. Normally, the maximum contract period for a foreigner is three years but with possible extension to five years for individuals with highly specialized skills.

According to the IMF, Zimbabwe has the second largest informal economy (as a share of GDP) in the world, after Bolivia, with a 60.6 percent contribution to the country’s GDP. Official data from the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (ZimStat) shows women accounted for 43 percent of the people involved in the informal sector in 2019.

The country’s labor laws make it very difficult for employers to adjust employment in response to an economic downturn except in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) where labor laws do not apply. Outside the SEZs, the employer must engage the employees and their representatives and agree to adopt measures to avoid retrenchment. If the measures fail, the employer can retrench and pay an all-inclusive package of one-month salary for each two years of service or the pro rata share thereof. Labor laws differentiate between layoffs and severance with the former falling under retrenchment where the retrenchment law must apply. The law does not accept unfair dismissal or layoffs of employees. The 2015 amendments to the act only permit terminations of contracts to be in terms of a registered code of conduct, expiry of a contract of fixed term duration, or mutual agreement. There is no unemployment insurance or other safety net programs for workers laid off for economic reasons.

Collective bargaining agreements apply 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 National Employment Councils. Unions representing at least 50 percent of the workers may bargain with the authorization of the Minister of Public Service and Labor. The law encourages the creation of employee-controlled workers’ committees in enterprises where less than 50 percent of workers are unionized. Workers’ committees exist in parallel with trade unions. Their role is to negotiate shop floor grievances, while that of the trade unions is to negotiate industry-level grievances, notably wages. The minister and the registrar have broad powers to take over the direction of a workers’ committee if they believe it is mismanaged. Trade unions regarded the existence of such a parallel body as an arrangement that allows employers to undermine the role of unions.

Employers in all sectors rely heavily on temporary or contract workers to avoid having to pay severance costs and follow other onerous termination procedures. The Labor Amendment Act of 2015, however, requires employment councils to put a limit on the number of times employers can renew short-term contracts. The government does not waive labor laws in order to attract or retain investment, except in the case of SEZs.

The law provides for the right of private-sector workers to form and join unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Public-sector workers may not form or join trade unions but may form associations that bargain collectively and strike. The law prohibits anti-union discrimination, provides that the labor court handle discrimination complaints, and may direct reinstatement of workers fired due to such discrimination. However, the government does not respect workers’ rights to form or join unions, strike, and bargain collectively.

Parliament enacted a bill establishing the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) in 2019 to formalize dialogue efforts among government, labor leaders, and employers to discuss social and economic policy and address demands. However, the forum met only once in 2020. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) stated the TNF did little to address workers’ demands for wage increases and labor law reform, and the government showed little progress in supporting workers’ protections, fairness, and peaceful resolution of labor disputes.

The country has a labor dispute resolution process that starts at the company level through disciplinary or grievance committees. If the issue is not resolved at this level, the aggrieved party can appeal to either the employment council or the Labor Court depending on the industrial agreement. Other redress is through the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare in which labor officers settle disputes for industries without employment councils. From the Labor Court, an aggrieved party can appeal to the Supreme Court. Labor inspections are minimal due to a lack of inspectors.

The government continues to harass labor unions and their leaders. Police and state intelligence services regularly attend and monitored trade union activities and sometimes prevented unions from holding meetings with their members and carrying out organizational activities. Although unions are not required by law to notify police of public gatherings, police require such notification in practice. Those unions engaging in strikes deemed illegal risk fines and imprisonment.

The government used violence and excessive force when some unions tried to demonstrate during the period under review. Police arrested three members of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) following a June 2020 protest in Masvingo to demand increased salaries paid in U.S. dollars. Police also arrested 13 nurses at Harare Central Hospital in July and charged them with contravening COVID-19 lockdown regulations, with photos and video of police holding clubs and chasing nurses circulating widely on social media. In July 2020, the Zimbabwe Republic Police published a list of 14 prominent government critics wanted for questioning, including the presidents of ZCTU and ARTUZ, regarding planned anti-corruption demonstrations on July 31, 2020. In the lead-up to the planned July 31 protests, the ZCTU president suspected state security agents slashed his car tires and unsuccessfully tried to seize his relatives, and the ARTUZ president alleged that armed suspected state security agents detained his wife and besieged the home of a relative demanding to know his whereabouts.

The government is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and has ratified conventions protecting worker rights. The country has been subject to ILO supervisory mechanisms for practices that limit workers’ rights to freely associate, organize, and hold labor union meetings. At the 108th session of the ILO’s International Labor Conference in June 2019, the Committee on the Application of Standards noted concern regarding the government’s failure to implement specific recommendations of the 2010 Commission of Inquiry, which 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 union and opposition members. The Committee also noted persisting allegations of violations of the rights of the freedom of assembly of workers’ organizations. The Committee urged the government to accept a direct contacts mission of the ILO to assess progress before the next conference. The government ultimately agreed to accept a direct contacts mission, originally scheduled for May 2020 but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020 the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative initiated a review of Zimbabwe’s eligibility for trade preferences under the Generalized System of Preferences due to concerns of worker rights related to a lack of freedom of association, including the rights of independent trade unions to organize and bargain collectively, and government crackdown on labor activists. The review has not yet concluded.

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Specialist
U.S. Embassy Harare
2 Lorraine Drive, Bluffhill, Harare
+263 8677011000
zimbizopps@state.gov

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