No guarantee of rights

Same as last year


Workers' rights violations

Repressive laws

In January 2023, the Zimbabwean government published the Health Services Amendment Act and Criminal Law Amendment Bill that would stifle the rights of working people to freedom of expression and association.

The Health Services Amendment Act comprises a number of repressive strictures, including: those that restrict any collective job action, lawful or unlawful, from continuing for an uninterrupted period of 72 hours or more in any given 14-day period; that demand notice of any collective job action in writing 48 hours before it starts; and threaten that any individual who is a member of the governing body of any trade union that incites or organises any collective job action in the health service could be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine or to imprisonment of up to six months or to both.

The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill provides for new crimes and heavy sentencing, including a crime for “wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”; making it an offence for any Zimbabwean to seek support from a foreign country in a way that the government decides undermines the sovereignty, dignity, and independence of the country; and making it an offence to speak out against government policies, with penalties depending on the nature of the meeting held and the outcome of that meeting. The penalties for these new offences vary from a fine, to life imprisonment or a death sentence.

Both texts are currently before Parliament.

Right to free speech and assembly

On 30 May 2022, three young trade unionists were denied entry into Zimbabwe and deported to their home countries of Tanzania and Uganda, after being harassed and threatened with arrest. They had all travelled to Zimbabwe to attend a capacity development workshop on advancing due diligence in the energy transition supply chain in Sub-Saharan Africa.

One of them, Mamisa, was detained for four hours, before being forced to board the next plane to Nairobi. The Zimbabwean officials refused to explain why she was being deported. While in custody, the immigration officers told Mamisa that they “did not want trade union activists in the country”. They threatened her and forced her to sign a form that claimed she did not have the proper documentation to enter the country.

It was only in Nairobi that she was able to get her passport back, after enduring a further four hours without food or water. She was also given a deportation form. Based on the documentation she received, Mamisa says it is still unclear why she was deported, except for her trade union activities.

Violent attacks on workers

In Zimbabwe, Robert Muwawa was abducted on 22 June 2022 after leading a strike at Strauss Logistics. The drivers at Strauss Logistics had embarked on industrial action over “victimisation in the transport industry,” according to the Zimbabwe Truck Drivers Union (ZTDU) which represents haulage truck drivers.

Muwawa, who was Strauss Logistics Workers’ Committee Secretary, went missing on 22 June after receiving threatening calls from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) in Southerton.

It was reported that Muwawa was later found “and picked up by good Samaritans”. He had been brutalised and was left traumatised, but he was alive. While held captive he had been tortured and threatened with death.

Right to civil liberties

The Secretary General of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), Robson Chere, was arrested on 5 July 2022 and was detained at Burrowing Remand Prison. He was charged with the murder of Roy Issa, a human rights defender and a member of ARTUZ who died in 2016. At the time, a court inquest into Issa’s death had concluded that there was no foul play in his death.

Robson Chere’s arrest came barely a week after the release, on bail, of ARTUZ president, Obert Masaraure, who faced similar charges.

The ITUC wrote to the government on 8 July 2022 to remind them that only a year earlier the International Labour Organization had deplored Harare’s continued use of penal sanctions against those who voiced any opposition to the government.

Right to civil liberties

On 17 September 2022, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was holding a meeting at its head office at Gorlon House in commemoration of human and trade union rights violations and in particular paying tribute to trade union leaders and activists who were physically attacked, arrested or killed while conducting trade union activities. Police raided ZCTU offices during this meeting and searched the offices, arresting anyone inside. The police also arrested vendors who were trading their goods near the ZCTU office. The ZCTU reported the incident to the ministry officials and also during a tripartite workshop on the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA). However, the police officials attending this workshop responded by denying the raid and arrests.

Right to civil liberties

Obert Masaraure, President of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), was arrested on 14 June 2022 at Harare Police Station, where he had gone to report in line with his bail conditions. He had been charged with “treason” for participating in a teachers’ protest.

When he arrived at the police station, Masaraure was detained and later charged with the murder of Roy Issa, a human rights defender, a member of ARTUZ, and a personal friend, who died in 2016. Obert Masaraure was held at Chikurubi Maximum prison while awaiting the hearing of his new bail application.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) immediately protested at the arrest and demanded his immediate and unconditional release. It pointed out that at the time of Roy Issa’s death, the magistrate’s court had ruled out foul play following an inquest.

The ZCTU viewed the arrest as a clear effort by the State to silence Obert Masaraure, who has been a vocal opponent of human rights violations, as well as having worked towards better working conditions for teachers. Over a number of years, Obert Masaraure has been the victim of numerous arrests on insubstantial grounds, and in 2019 he was abducted from his home by seven masked and armed men who tortured and left him for dead.

The courts initially denied him bail but, on appeal, the High Court released Obert Masaraure on 29 June 2022. His bail was set at ZW$60,000 (US$166) with conditions, including a requirement that he surrender his passport and report at a police station once a week.

Right to justice

In Zimbabwe, the 16 union leaders from the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union, including union president Obert Masaraure, who had been illegally arrested in January 2022, were granted bail by a Magistrate’s Court. Their case was still pending in court. Meanwhile, their salaries have been docked, and the Union Secretary for Education and Research, Gerald Tavengwa, also detained, was discharged from his teaching duties. This targeting of union leaders formed part of a broader state strategy to crush the independent trade union movement and to intimidate workers.

Masaraure was still facing criminal charges of “subverting a constitutional government” following a Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions ZCTU protest action in 2019. The courts continued to dismiss his applications for discharge despite the state’s failure to bring him to trial.

Union busting

Ingwebu Breweries in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, dismissed all the members of its workers’ committee, who had been elected by the workers to represent them at the company level, between July and August 2022.

The United Food and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe (UFAWUZ), which represents 500 of the company’s 750 employees, said that Ingwebu Breweries had refused to honour the increments agreed to in the collective bargaining agreement for the brewing and distilling sub-sector of the food and allied industries.

Furthermore, workers had not been paid on time since January. When the workers committee demanded payment of the unpaid increments and wage arrears, they were dismissed.

Things did not improve afterwards. Workers were paid a partial salary in September and were not paid at all in October. Ingwebu then tried to force workers to form a new workers’ committee. The workers rejected all their employer’s attempts to force them to do so and instead demanded that the dismissed members of the workers’ committee be reinstated. UFAWUZ demanded that Ingwebu stop victimising workers, pay all outstanding wages at once, and pay termination benefits to all employees who were unfairly dismissed.

Union busting

The president of the Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union (ZPNU), Robert Chiduku, was fired on 17 August 2022 for conducting union business at work without the consent of the employer. He was based at Gweru Provincial Hospital.

At least 200 nurses were also appearing before provincial disciplinary committees at that time, for taking part in strikes and conducting union activities at their workplaces. Nurses had taken strike action in June to demand that their salaries be paid in US dollars and to push the case for better working conditions.

To stop nurses and doctors from engaging in strikes for a long period, in 2021, the government had introduced the Health Services Amendment Bill, section 5 of which restricts industrial action by health workers. Health practitioners have widely condemned the Bill, describing it as a means to prevent health workers from voicing their grievances.

Union busting

After a wage deadlock in early 2022, and while waiting for conciliation of the dispute, the National Railways of Zimbabwe illegally fired trade union leaders who had been appointed as negotiators under the pretext of retrenchment. The dismissed workers were Kamurai Moyo, President of the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Workers Union (ZARWU), Farai Dambudzo, General Secretary of Railways Artisan Union (RAU) and Sikhumbuzo Moyo, President of the RAU.

Right to collective bargaining

The government of Zimbabwe announced a raft of economic stabilisation measures in May 2022 without consulting with partners at the Tripartite Negotiation Forum (TNF). The TNF is a social dialogue platform that brings together government, business and labour representatives to establish common ground before enacting key public policies. Yet in the case of these latest policy announcements, there had been no social dialogue. The government also refused to publish the US$150 minimum wage agreed at the TNF in September 2022.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was highly critical of the measures, warning they could trigger massive job cuts and more inflation. Zimbabwe already has the second highest annual inflation in Africa, after Sudan.

Dismissals for participating in strike action

In Zimbabwe, workers at a diamond mine run by Capafare Investments, a sub-contractor of RZM Murowa Diamonds, downed tools in August 2022 to protest not having been paid for five months. The protest resulted in at least 43 employees getting fired. After a meeting on 12 August between RZM Murowa Diamonds, Capafare and workers’ representatives, the company announced that it would pay its outstanding invoices, a package totalling US$ 112,874, to ensure production continued. However, no announcement was made about the fate of the 43 workers unlawfully dismissed.

Workers’ rights in law

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