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statement on International Workers’ Day
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
for Human Rights (ZLHR) joins the workers of Zimbabwe in marking
International Workers’ Day on 1 May 2013 and salutes all courageous
working women and men who have sacrificed so much to promote and
defend the right to a dignified life free from poverty, a living
wage, social justice and human rights for all, regardless of socio-economic
status or privilege.
Workers’ Day should be an opportunity to celebrate the economic
and social achievements of workers, it is dismaying that for thousands
of Zimbabwean workers, this year’s May Day commemorations
will be another difficult day on which they continue to grapple
with grinding poverty, slave wages in much of the public and private
sector, and continued assaults on their fundamental rights and freedoms.
This is despite the right to work having been enshrined in Article
23.1 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and being recognised in the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and in the African
Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
On the remuneration
front, ZLHR is disheartened that both private and public sector
workers continue to receive slave wages five years after the formation
of the inclusive
government and despite endless promises by politicians to review
and improve their torrid working conditions.
It is lamentable
that, while workers who have been condemned to paltry wages ranging
between $150 and $300 per month struggle to survive, some privileged
people in the government, who are enjoying lavish lifestyles, have
elected to be blind to the workers’ plight because they are
covered by the unfair salary structures and the allowances they
amass from sometimes superfluous foreign excursions and other questionable
activities including the opaque accounting for the country’s
Adding to the
dilemma, overzealous members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)
continue to act with impunity by interfering with legitimate trade
union activities in cases where they are not legally mandated to
To prove their
unrepentant nature, some members of the police continue to deny
workers and other citizens the right to exercise their constitutionally
guaranteed and recognised fundamental rights and freedoms of association
Just last week,
police in Masvingo on Wednesday 24 April 2013 unilaterally prohibited
the Zimbabwe Congress
of Trade Unions (ZCTU) from staging a procession scheduled for
Wednesday 1 May 2013 in commemoration of Workers’ Day. The
ZRP sought to “ban” the ZCTU procession and ordered
the labour unionists to confine themselves to just gathering at
Mucheke Stadium after indicating that the ZRP could not sanction
the procession due to unspecified “security reasons”.
It was only after legal intervention that the procession will be
allowed to proceed.
actions by the police, which occur year after year despite court
orders to the contrary, are contemptuous of commitments in the Global
Political Agreement to ensure freedom of assembly and association.
We are perturbed that the police seem not to learn, even after ZLHR
has on numerous occasions in recent years fought on behalf of the
ZCTU and labour union leaders to secure one court order after another
nullifying the ZRP’s unlawful use of the abhorrent Public
Order and Security Act (POSA) to stop workers' union activities.
that the ZRP should desist from prying into, and destabilizing,
labour union activities as the police have no business in trade
government must end its insensitivity towards workers, implement
labour law reforms and the recommendations of the International
Labour Organisation’s Commission of Enquiry Report on violations
of trade union rights, and reduce the high levels of income tax
that are a millstone on beleaguered workers of Zimbabwe.
ZLHR calls upon
all employers and the government to respond to the workers’
plight by paying all workers a minimum wage above the PDL, and improving
their working conditions including access to life-prolonging anti-retroviral
drugs and functional health facilities. To us responsibility for
the failure to remunerate workers with Poverty Datum Line (PDL)
linked salaries and improve their working conditions lies squarely
and fully on the shoulders of the inclusive government. They have
proven that almost five years after presiding over the state of
the country’s affairs they are simply unconcerned with the
challenges faced by workers and those outside their ivory towers.
fully committed to promoting, protecting and defending workers’
rights and we stand together with the working masses in Zimbabwe
in calling for a better and more dignified life for all.
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