Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1987

Zimbabwe has a parliamentary form of government, with a
popularly elected legislature. A single party, the Zimbabwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU), has dominated
the legislative and executive branches of government, but a
parliamentary opposition has existed since independence. On
December 22, 1987, the President of Zimbabwe and of ZANU,
Robert Mugabe, and Joshua Nkomo, the head of the main
opposition party, the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU),
announced their agreement to merge the two parties. ZAPU has
been strongest in Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South
and has considerable strength in the Midlands, but is weak
elsewhere. Historical animosities between the two major
ethnic groupings, the Shona majority (which generally has
supported ZANU) and the Ndebele minority (generally loyal to
ZAPU) continued, despite the ultimately successful negotiations
by the leaders of ZANU and ZAPU to unify their parties at the
end of 1987.
The security forces have three branches. The Zimbabwe
Republic Police is responsible for maintaining law and order
and includes the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) , the
Police Intelligence and Security Inspectorate (PISI), and the
paramilitary Police Support Unit (PSU) . All branches of the
police report to the Minister of Home Affairs, E.ios Nkala.
The Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), attached to the
Prime Minister's office, has both an intelligence and
counterintelligence function. CIO operatives have police
powers and can arrest, detain, and interrogate suspects in
internal security cases. Finally, the armed forces, which
number about 50,000 members, are also involved in internal
security, usually in antidissident operations. In marked
contrast to the 1982-1985 period, few reports of human rights
abuses have been ascribed to the armed forces although the
military reportedly has been involved with the police in
forced repatriations of Mozambican refugees.
Zimbabwe has a wide range of resources, including both a
strong agricultural and a manufacturing base, but its important
export-import capacity is heavily dependent on the rail links
that pass through South Africa. To overcome this dependency,
Zimbabwe has undertaken a major effort, with Western donor
support, to revitalize the rail-port system through Mozambique
to the town of Beira. In so doing, Zimbabwe increasingly has
become involved in the Mozambican civil strife and has
committed thousands of combat troops to the war in Mozambique.
Beginning in 1986, there has been a trend towards decreased
human rights abuses by the Government of Zimbabwe; a
significant exception has been the sometimes brutal forced
repatriation of over 9,000 Mozambican refugees and the forced
resettlement in refugee camps of thousands more spontaneously
settled Mozambicans. Abuses by Mozambican National Resistance
(MNR/RENAMO) guerrillas crossing over from Mozambique,
dissidents in Matabeleland, and forces intent upon attacking
persons and buildings believed to be associated with the
African National Congress (ANC) are on the increase. The
major incidents of 1987 include the bombing of an ANC-occupied
apartment in June and the car-bombing of a shopping center in
October (both of which occurred in Harare); MNR incursions
along the length of Zimbabwe's eastern border, resulting in
the murder, kidnaping, and disappearance of Zimbabwean
citizens (with particular brutality toward children); and the
murder of scores of unarmed black and white civilians in the
western part of Zimbabwe by armed dissidents in Matabeleland.
These attacks in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces provide
the Government with its justification for continuing the state
of emergency which the Parliament routinely ratifies every 6
months. The Government banned meetings by the political
opposition and detained some leading members of the opposition
for several months in 1987.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
     a. Political Killing
There were no reports of political killings by government
security forces in 1987. There has been, however, an increase
in killings, which appear to be politically motivated,
committed by armed insurgents known as "dissidents".
Dissidents increasingly have focused their attacks on whites
in Matabeleland, although many black Zimbabweans also have
been victims. According to official government figures for
the 6 months ending June 30, dissidents committed 42 murders,
22 rapes, and 80 armed robberies. On September 7, six
government health workers were killed by dissidents. On
November 26, armed dissidents massacred 16 persons, including
2 Americans, in a nighttime attack on a religious mission.
The tactics of the armed bandits are often brutal, include
torture, and are aimed at suspected members of ZANU, government
officials, white farmers, and civilians accused of "selling
out" to the Government.
The MNR announced in late 1986 its intention to take the
Mozambican conflict into Zimbabwe. MNR forces, operating
along the Mozambigue-Zimbabwe border, committed a number of
atrocities in 1987, including, according to reliable reports,
bayoneting to death five school children and mutilating others
in Zimbabwe on November 19 and the axe murder of a family of 7
on November 26.
     b. Disappearance
Human rights observers in both Harare and Bulawayo reported
that in 1987 there were no new cases of disappearance
attributable to the Government. There has been, however, no
progress in locating any of the people, almost all of whom
were from Ndebele regions, who reportedly disappeared in
1985. Estimates of the number of disappeared range from at
least 80 to as many as 400. In 1986 families of several
missing persons filed legal action against the Government for
failure adequately to investigate these disappearances. The
Government has not resolved these cases which remain open.
There also are numerous reports that MNR forces from Mozambique
kidnaped black Zimbabwean citizens from the Eastern border
areas, using them as bearers. Many of them have never been
seen again.
     c. Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
There have been scattered, firsthand reports of torture in
1987 indicating that torture may continue to be employed in
some security cases. Senior government officials strongly
deny that torture is condoned but have admitted that isolated,
unauthorized instances have occurred.
Police brutality in ordinary criminal cases is also a problem.
In one example of police brutality, a group of white school
girls in Bulawayo reportedly were beaten by police after being
detained for allegedly insulting an officer. Such cases of
brutality against whites are reported more frequently than
cases of brutality against blacks. Black Zimbabweans often
appear not to report instances of police brutality out of fear
of reprisals and the perception that they will not receive
much public attention. Occasionally, police are prosecuted on
charges of brutality but are rarely punished severely. In 1987
a provincial court in Matabeleland convicted 2 police officers
for torturing a civilian. The sentence imposed was a fine,
with no term of imprisonment.
Available evidence indicates that prison conditions in Zimbabwe
are generally Spartan. There have been allegations of poor
sanitary and medical facilities and routine mistreatment of
prisoners in the notorious Stops Camp detention facility in
Bulawayo. The regular prison population reportedly is lower
than last year. The Government, however, will not divulge the
actual number of inmates.
     d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, Exile or Forced Labor
A state of emergency, renewed every 6 months by parliamentary
vote on the Emergency Powers Act, has been in continuous effect
in Zimbabwe since 1965. Under the state of emergency, persons
may be detained without an arrest warrant and held for up to 7
days before being informed of the reasons for detention. The
law states that a detainee has the right to see a lawyer
"without delay" after having been detained. Though the reasons
for detention may initially be quite vague, detainees must
receive enough specific detail to enable them to make
meaningful representations on their behalf.
Zimbabwean law states that, after 30 days, a detainee must
appear before an independent review tribunal which can
recommend to the Minister of Home Affairs that the detainee be
released if evidence is insufficient to warrant continued
incarceration. The Minister may, however, recommend to the
President that the detainee continue to be held. In such
cases, the President may then order the Minister to overrule
the tribunal's recommendation.
The Government overruled the findings of the review tribunal
in 1987 in the cases of John Austin and Neil Harper, two senior
customs officials who were detained in 1986 on charges of
spying for South Africa, released by the Supreme Court for
lack of reasonable suspicion of the charges, and then
redetained under the emergency powers regulations. Though the
review tribunal initially confirmed their continued detention,
a subsequent review recommended their release. The Government
has, however, continued to detain them. The case again is on
appeal to the Supreme Court.
Due to procedural delays, a detainee may have to wait several
months before appearing at the review tribunal, and there have
been scattered incidents of the tribunal forgeting about
detainees for several months. If the tribunal recommends
continued detention, however, the case need not be reviewed
again for another 6 months.
The Government also has made extensive use of emergency powers
in vaguely defined security cases, particularly in the absence
of solid evidence of wrongdoing. Because the emergency powers
regulations do not require any evidence of criminal activity
before a suspect may be detained, the professionalism of police
investigations has been eroded. The most common reasons for
detention under the state of emergency are suspected dissident
activity, support for dissidents, or spying for foreign powers,
particularly South Africa. The Government has detained
political opponents of the ruling party (ZANU) as well as some
of its supporters. In most cases, however, the Government
ultimately orders the arrest and charging of individuals under
the Law and Order Maintenance Act, which provides sanctions
for political crimes. Such action then becomes part of a
judicial process with recourse to a court trial.
Bail is generally left to the discretion of the courts.
However, the Minister of Home Affairs can order the refusal of
bail in any case, particularly those concerning security or
exchange control violations, by submitting a certificate which
denies bail to the persons under arrest. The Government has
made extensive use of this prerogative in security-related
cases .
It is difficult to specify the number of persons currently
detained on politically related charges. Reliable estimates
point to 35-45 long-term detainees. Human rights observers
report, however, that there are far fewer detainees in 1987
than there were in 1986. It is impossible to determine the
number of short-term detainees held at any given time.
Zimbabwe law forbids the use of forced labor, and forced labor
is not practiced.
     e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Zimbabwe's legal system is based on a mixture of Roman-Dutch
and English common law practices and procedures, and consists
of magisterial courts, a High Court, and a Supreme Court. All
trials are open to the public, except in very rare cases when
the Government orders proceedings to be held in camera. In
most instances defendants must retain their own legal counsel
because there is limited provision for public defenders.
Defense counsel can present evidence and confront witnesses.
The right to appeal exists in all cases.
Persons brought to trial can be assured of a fair public
hearing comparable to that found in most Western democracies.
The Government generally abides by court decisions even when
it strongly opposes the ruling. However, according to statute,
the Executive Branch is not bound to award damages to persons
even if so ordered by the courts.
Although there are at present 500 lawyers in Zimbabwe, there
is a shortage of experienced magistrates. Zimbabwe's judicial
system is hard pressed to cope with ordinary criminal cases.
Case and law reporting are 3 years out of date. Given the
inexperience of magistrates and the slowness of information
flows, it is inevitable that errors occur.
     f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution formally protects citizens from arbitrary
search or entry. Under emergency power regulations, however,
a police officer may stop and search any person or enter any
area without a warrant when the officer has "reasonable
grounds" for believing evidence of a crime may exist.
Although no cases were brought to the courts in 1987, it is
widely believed that the Government continues to monitor
private correspondence and telephones.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
     a. Freedom of Speech and Pressof Speech and Press
The Zimbabwe Constitution provides for freedom of expression
but allows for legislation limiting this freedom in certain
cases, for example, when the "interest of defense, public
safety, public order, state economic interests, public
morality and public health" are involved.
The Government tends to interpret broadly its power to
discourage free speech. In 1987, for example, several people
were arrested and charged with misdemeanors under the
Miscellaneous Offenses Act for uttering remarks disrespectful
of the Prime Minister or government policies. At public
events, it is generally assumed that speakers are under
surveillance and may be subject to follow-up police action if
the remarks are judged too controversial. Even in private
gatherings, Zimbabweans are sometimes reluctant to voice
political complaints openly, particularly if they do not know
their interlocutors well.
Zimbabwe's major print media (five English-language newspapers
and one vernacular broadsheet) are government controlled.
Other, smaller, privately owned print media are, however,
allowed to operate. Television and radio are wholly
government owned. Senior media officials follow the official
government/ruling party line closely and practice a high
degree of self-censorship. Press coverage which disputes the
main lines of government policy, criticizes the ruling party,
or questions the actions of senior government or party
officials is rare. The Herald and the Sunday Mail were forced
to issue retractions on at least two occasions in 1987. The
first instance was over an article on India's involvement in
Sri Lanka. Of greater consequence was the Sunday Mail account
on April 12 of Cuba's expulsion of Zimbabwean students. The
Prime Minister publicly apologized to Cuba's visiting Foreign
Minister for the Sunday Mail stories and denounced the stories
as "reactionary." Stating that Zimbabwe "cannot have a
reactionary press," the Prime Minister promised to deal
"personally" with the "holder of the pen." Sunday Mail editor
Muradzikwa subsequently was dismissed, although eventually he
was given an administrative position with the paper.
On the other hand, the government-controlled press has devoted
considerable coverage to reports issued by the commission of
inquiry into parastatals (public corporations) because of the
high status accorded to the commission by the Prime Minister.
These reports often have narrated explicit tales of official
corruption and mismanagement. There also have been reports in
1987 criticizing inefficiency or poor planning in selected
social or economic areas. The independent weekly Financial
Gazette focuses on business news but exhibits more
investigative range (including political coverage) and
analytical depth than government-owned media. In 1986
Information Minister Shamuyarira accused the Financial Gazette
of serving as a "mouthpiece" for foreign powers and threatened
unspecified action against the paper unless it modified its
reporting and editorial procedures. Although the Financial
Gazette was threatened with similar "unspecified actions" in
1987, no official action was taken against the paper.
International journalists also have been threatened from time
to time. In May three journalists were detained and
interrogated repeatedly because police suspected that the
reporters had had advance knowledge of the South African
attack on the Zambian border town of Livingstone.
     b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution formally provides for the right of assembly
and association for political and nonpolitical organizations
including a broad spectrum of economic, professional, social,
and recreational activities. In practice, there are serious
obstacles to the full exercise of this right, particularly in
the case of political associations.
Police permits are required for public meetings and political
rallies. Although ZAPU held some public rallies early in
1987, its meetings officially were banned, and its offices
closed by police order from mid-September until the end of
November. The preponderant position of ZANU in the country
has helped to foster the assumption that membership in the
party is a demonstration of loyalty and patriotism (as well as
an advantage in terms of professional and social advancement),
whereas identification with minority parties is suspect and a
form of political deviance.
There are numerous nonpolitical business and employers'
organizations, professional associations, and recreational and
sports clubs, that are generally free of governmental
interference. The Government has intervened, however, when it
perceives any association activity to be straying into even
remotely political waters.
Under the comprehensive labor legislation passed in 1S85,
labor has the right to organize and bargain collectively. The
Government, however, sets guidelines for minimum salary
increases which serve as a floor above which the trade unions
may negotiate with management for greater increases. The
Government also promulgates all regulations regarding the
hiring and firing of workers, thus effectively preempting
another aspect of the collective bargaining process. In
addition, the Zimbabwe labor code only permits "collective job
action" which does not affect "essential services." The
Minister of Labor has the discretion to decide what is an
"essential service," so the Government has the capacity to
declare any strike to be illegal. Trade unions, acting
through the umbrella Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU),
generally cooperate with the Government, though the
Government's party, ZANU, does not have any special strength
within the trade union movement.
Approximately 17 percent of Zimbabwean workers belong to the
ZCTU. The trade union movement is still young, somewhat
disorganized, and undisciplined. The ZCTU also has been
unable to promote public discussions of the Government's labor
policy. At the 1987 May Day ceremonies, the Prime Minister
declared that the Government would issue guidelines for a wage
increase. In July, however, the Government imposed a wage
freeze, and the ZCTU was not even able to meet with the Prime
Minister to present its case. Though the ZCTU has threatened
strikes in the past, it did not call for strikes in 1987.
Such inaction has eroded the ZCTU's credibility. Since the
July wage freeze, workers have staged various short-term
wildcat strikes, and a strike by the Shoemakers Union on
October 26 was quickly quashed by government order.
The ZCTU is officially nonaligned. It receives funding from,
but is not affiliated with, the International Confederation of
Free Trade Unions, The ZCTU also maintains contacts with the
Anerican Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial
Organizations through the African American Labor Center and
with trade unions from the Eastern Bloc. The ZCTU is a member
of the Organization of Africa Trade Union Unity and the
Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council, as well as a
participant in the International Labor Organization.
G. Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion is respected in Zimbabv.'e. There is no
state established religion. Denoniinations are permitted to
worship openly, pursue social and charitable activities, and
maintain ties to affiliates and coreligionists abroad.
Religious belief is neither a handicap nor an advantage in
terms of professional or political advancement. Many
government leaders received their education in mission
schocis, and a number of senior ZANU officials are, in fact,
clergymen. Elective courses in religious studies are part of
the secondary school cuirjculum.
The Government in isolated cases has intervened to settle
dispute.': within fringe religious groups.
     d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Travel at home and abroao is not generally subject to official
restrictions, although travel restrictions ha>/e been
occasionally applied against those who it was believed might
criticize the Government before foreign audiences. This
practice does not appear to be widespread. A far more serious
practical obstacle to foreign travel is currency control,
which severely limits the amount of foreign currency Zimbabwe
nationals can take out of the country.
Immigration is not restricted, although persons who have left
the country are not guaranteed the right to return if they
were not born in Zimbabwe. Applicants must be able to
demonstrate proof of livelihood. Repatriates from South
Africa are always suspect and are considered economic
competition for black Zimbabweans. Another significant group
of repatriates consists of political refugees who have
returned primarily from Dukwe Camp in Botswana. Almost 950 of
these repatriates have reentered Zimbabwe since 1985.
Zimbabwe has also accepted at least 70,000 refugees and
displaced persons from Mozambique, many of whom are fleeing
civil strife and economic deprivation. These refugees are
accommodated in camps near the MozambLcan border. The
Government fears that MNR guerrillas infiltrate Zimbabwe under
the cover of these refugees, and it has declared its intention
to repatriate them. The police and the army have forcibly
repatriated over 9,000 Mozambican refugees from Zimbabwe. The
repatriations have resulted in many injuries and some deaths,
and about 300 Mozambican men are missing. Families also have
been separated. Over 5,000 dependents were left behind in
Zimbabwe. In addition, self-settled Mozambican refugees and
transient workers have been forced into refugee camps which
lacked the infrastructure to deal with the influx.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Gonvernment
Zimbabwe currently has a popularly elected government. The
decision to merge the two major parties, ZANU and ZAPU,
announced December 22, 1987, will leave eight members of the
Assembly who are not members of the merged party; seven of
these, however, were supported by ZANU. Other parties are not
forbidden by law. On December 31, Robert Mugabe, the head of
ZANU, was inaugurated as the first executive President of the
country in a constitutional change to replace the Westminster
model created by the Lancaster House agreement. Most Members
of Parliament represent electoral districts and are chosen by
direct, universal suffrage. Other Members of Parliament are
nominated by the President, are traditional chiefs, or were
elected by incumbent House of Assembly members.
The President is Head of State and Head of Government and is
responsible to Parliament. He presides over the Cabinet,
which is the executive decisionmaking body. The Parliament
contains two chambers: the House of Assembly and the Senate.
Late in 1987, Zimbabwe's Parliament passed two major
constitutional and election law amendments which affected
racial representation in the Parliament and the nature of the
executive. The Lancaster House Constitution of 1979 previously
reserved 20 of 100 seats in the House of Assembly and 10 of 40
seats in the Senate for whites who were elected by a separate
white electoral roll. These reserved seats and the separate
white voters' roll were abolished by a constitutional
amendment approved by Parliament. The remaining 80 members of
the House of Assembly, acting as an electoral college, elected
new members to the House of Assembly and the Senate in October.
Fifteen black and 15 white Zimbabweans were elected to fill
the vacant seats. All of these replacement Members of
Parliament were nominated by ZANU, which gives the ruling
party an overwhelming majority in both houses of Parliament.
It should be noted that the 15 whites elected to the
Parliament late last year were not nominated by ZANU, although
ZANU did support their election.
The second constitutional amendment replaced the prime
ministerial system of government with an executive presidency.
Though the President will eventually be directly elected by a
common voters' roll to a term of 6 years, in the transition
the President was chosen by a simple majority of the present
Parliament and will serve in office until the first popular
presidential election. The constitutional amendment mandates
that this presidential election take place not later than the
next parliamentary general election now scheduled for 1990.
The President appoints the Vice President and the rest of the
Cabinet, who serve at his pleasure. The President is not
obliged to consult the Cabinet on the dissolution or
prorogation of Parliament or on ministerial appointments.
Successful votes of no confidence require the approval of
two-thirds of the Assembly. A two-thirds majority vote also
is necessary to override a presidential veto. As an
alternative to resigning in response to a successful
no-confidence vote, the President must either dissolve
Parliament or dismiss the Vice President and the entire
Cabinet. The office of Prime Minister does not exist in this
new executive system.
The current President, Robert Mugabe, has made clear his
intention to proceed toward the establishment of a one-party
state, and the ZANU-ZAPU merger agreement explicitly endorses
this goal. Creation o£ a one-party state in Zimbabwe will
significantly alter the current governing arrangement whereby
opposition parties, although discriminated against and
harassed by the Government, still play an important role in
preserving democratic processes. However, the new united
ZANU, in absorbing the several and competing ethnic groups
that make up Zimbabwe, will probably continue to be the arena
of political jostling and competition.
With regard to local government, the opposition party ZAPU
swept 9 of 12 Matabeleland districts in the June elections for
district councillors. During the campaign a ZANU activist was
murdered for refusing to attend a ZAPU rally in Hwange, and an
independent candidate (with close ties to ZANU) in the Inyati
district elections claimed to have been threatened by "armed
dissidents." Citing "voter intimidation," the Government
annulled the election? in Hwange and Inyati and postponed
elections in the Insiza and Gwanda districts for "security
reasons." The incumbent district councillors, most of whom
belonged to ZAPU, were allowed to remain in office in these
districts. In the remaining districts, the newly elected
councillors were allowed to take office.
In September the Minister of Home Affairs ordered that ZAPU
offices in Matabeleland be closed because ZAPU allegedly
frustrated government programs and supported the "armed
dissidents." Police raided the ZAPU office in Bulawayo and
arrested 11 ZAPU officials, all of whom have now been
released. Six Matabeleland district councils were dissolved.
Five of these councils, including Hwange and Inyati, were
ZAPU-cont rolled, and the sixth, Binga, was controlled by
former ZAPU officials wno had recently changed party
affiliation to ZANU.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongcvernm.ental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
The Government is highly sensitive to charges by international,
nongovernmental organizations of human rights abuses in
Zimbabwe. In 1986 the Government attempted to frustrate
outside investigations of human rights abuses and denounced as
lies reports of the abuse of human rights. It declared
Amnesty International in 1986 an "enem.y of the people," and,
according to Amnesty International's 1987 Report, threatened
that anyone who supplied the organization with information
would be detained. In contrast to last year, there were
neither threats nor detentions of human rights activists in
1587. Though the Government reduced its pressure on human
rights groups, officials continue publicly to deny that human
rights abuses occur in Zimbabwe except in exceptional and
unauthorized cases.
Despite these public denials, senior government ministers
privately have expressed a willingness to investigate cases
involving alleged human rights abuses and to seek rem.edial
action if necessary.
Private Zimbabwean groups supporting efforts to increase
public awareness of human rights principles and law operate
without hindrance. For example, the Bulawayo-based Legal
Projects Center and the Harare-based Legal Resources
Foundation operate libraries and information centers and are
expanding activities to train lawyers in this branch of the
law. The Legal Projects Center provides a legal aid clinic
which handles matters ranging from locating missing detainees
to domestic disputes.
The Government consistently has denied permission to the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit
prisoners. In 1986, however, some prominent foreigners were
allowed to visit Stops Camp detention facility in Bulawayo,
where torture and prisoner mistreatment had allegedly
occurred. Evidence suggests that Stops Camp has been the
scene of far fewer human rights abuses in 1987.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
Government services in Zimbabwe are provided on a
nondiscriminatory basis, and the Government has been able to
work with the previously "whites only" infrastructure in urban
areas to provide health and other social services to all. In
many rural areas, however, the neglect of the preindependence
period still leaves the Government struggling to provide
minimum care. Blacks on some commercial farms are still
dependent mainly on white farmers to meet basic health care
and educational needs.
In social terms, Zimbabwe remains a racially stratified
country despite bans against official discrimination. While
schools, churches, and clubs are all integrated, there is
limited social interaction between racial groups. The
"colored" (mixed race) community has complained of
discrimination by the Government in allocation of civil
service jobs.
Efforts to change ingrained cultural practices are under way,
but women still bear a heavy burden of discrimination in
Zimbabwean society. All women still are vulnerable to
traditional law, particularly concerning inheritance
practices, but recent court rulings and legislation are
improving the status of women. For example, the courts upheld
in 1987 the legal right of a woman to inherit property. The
contribution of wives to family property was recognized in the
Matrimonial Causes Act passed late in 1985, which requires
that family assets be distributed equitably when couples
divorce. With regard to inheritance laws, the Government is
attempting to blend customary practices into modern
legislation. A woman's position is still tenuous when it
comes to inheriting her husband's estate if he did not leave a
valid will. Zimbabwe law prohibits "kuzvarira", or pledging of
young girls to marriage partners not of their own choosing.
However, unless the girl is well educated and outspoken,
marriages based on "kuzvarira" still occur within the
traditional setting. Also, the tradition of "lobola" (bride
price) continues.
Due to concern over the spread of AIDS, the police have again,
attempted to crack down on prostitution. The police have
shown considerably more restraint and discretion than they did
in 1986, and there have been no reports of indiscriminate
harassment or detention of innocent women.
The 1985 Labour Relations Act calls for strict enforcement of
acceptable standards of health and safety, and these standards
are uniformly enforced in the industrial sector with only a
few isolated exceptions. Under Zimbabwe law, the minimum
working age for the formalized economy is 18, but it is
possible to begin an apprenticeship at age 16. The workweek
can be as high as 60 hours but averages 44 hours. The law
prescribes a 24-hour rest period each week. There were 15,345
work-related accidents, including 194 deaths, in 1987 among
the 1.5 million workers included in the Government's labor
Minimum wage levels in Zimbabwe are set by the Government
along sectoral lines. The current level for agro-industrial
workers is approximately $90 per month. The minimum wage for
general agricultural and domestic workers is about $52 per
month, minimally adequate for a decent living. Most employers
also provide housing, food, medical care, and, on commercial
farms, full schooling, for workers and their families. The
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has called upon the
Government to establish a minimum "living wage" for its
members of $173 per month. It is unlikely, however, that the
Government will mandate such a substantial minimum wage
increase in the foreseeable future.