GOVERNMENT has failed to enforce labour laws, resulting in workers being subjected to unfair labour practises, a report on Zimbabwe’s human rights practices for the year 2022 has revealed.
In the report produced by the United States (US) State Department, government was also accused of criminalising labour movements following cases of intimidation, arrests, detentions, violence and torture of some workers union leaders.
“The Ministry of Public Service and Labour is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage and work hours laws for each sector,” the report noted.
“The government did not effectively enforce these laws, particularly in the farming and domestic service sectors. The number of labour inspectors was insufficient to enforce labour laws, including those covering children.”
The report further says penalties for violations of wage or working hour restrictions were not commensurate with penalties for comparable offenses.
“Penalties were sometimes applied against violators. The government did not enforce occupational safety and health laws. Penalties were less than those for similar crimes, such as fraud or negligence. Penalties were sometimes applied to violators.”
The report further stated that unfair labour practices were also rampant in the informal sector which has seen authorities displacing thousands of vendors from their vending stalls. In the Harare central business district (CBD), the report adds, authorities restrict the number of vendors to 6 000 per day, yet in practice, more than 100 000 vendors operated daily as of June 2022.
“An estimated 80 to 90% of the country’s workers laboured in the informal sector,” the report says. “Labour laws technically apply to informal sector workers, but were not observed or enforced. Most informal workers worked in agriculture, trading or mining.”
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An estimated 500 000 people work in small-scale or artisanal mining, according to the Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis and Research Unit.
“Police frequently clashed with and arrested vendors in Harare’s CBD. Vendors reported that authorities arbitrarily confiscated their goods.
“In January, a town clerk linked to Zanu PF in the Harare City Council ordered the demolition of informal vendor stalls in Mbare, a township located in the south of Harare. According to a civil society organisation, this effort destroyed more than 500 stalls supporting thousands of families,” further read the report.
Efforts to get a comment from Public Service minister Paul Mavima were in vain.