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Solidarity statement on International Workers’ Day
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
May 01
, 2013

Zimbabwe Lawyers 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.

While International 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 mineral wealth.

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 intervene.

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 and assembly.

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.

The unilateral 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.

We reiterate that the ZRP should desist from prying into, and destabilizing, labour union activities as the police have no business in trade union work.

The inclusive 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.

ZLHR remains 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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