Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1986

Zimbabwe is a parliamentary-style democracy. A single party,
the Zimbabwe African National Union-Popular Front (ZANU),
dominates the legislative and executive branches of
government. The Prime Minister of the Government and
President of ZANU, Robert Mugabe, has announced plans to
create a one-party state through revision of the Constitution
beginning in 1987. The strength and influence of opposition
parties, particularly the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union
(ZAPU), led by Joshua Nkomo, have declined since independence
in 1980. Historical conflict between the two major tribal
groupings, the Shona-speaking majority (supporting ZANU) and
the Sindebele-speaking minority (loyal to ZAPU), continued,
but negotiations were under way throughout 1986 to merge ZANU
and ZAPU in a move designed to ease those deeply-rooted tribal
and regional differences.
The security forces have three branches. The Zimbabwe
Republic Police is responsible for maintaining law and order.
Three police units are active in dealing with internal
security matters: the Criminal Investigation Division, the
Police Intelligence and Security Inspectorate, and the Police
Support Unit. All branches of the police report to the
Minister for Home Affairs, Enos 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 and interrogate suspects in internal
security cases. Finally, the armed forces are also involved
in internal security, usually in antidissident operations.
Most reports of human rights violations in 1986 have been
traced to the police. A lesser number of problems have been
attributed to the CIO. Unlike in previous years, few reports
of human rights abuses have been ascribed to the armed forces.
Zimbabwe has a wide range of resources, including both a
strong agricultural and 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 has increasingly
become involved in the Mozambican civil strife and has
committed over 6,000 combat troops in support of the
Mozambican Government.
Repeated government efforts to deal with the dissident menace
in Ndebele/ZAPU-controlled areas, especially in Matabeleland,
form the background to most human rights problems in Zimbabwe
and to the continuing state of emergency. In 1986 increasing
fears of South African infiltration and possible
destabilization in Zimbabwe led to new detentions and
arrests. However, overall there was progress with respect to
human rights in 1986. After more than 3 years of often severe
repression of opposition political leaders and the civilian
population in Matabeleland, reports of political killings and
disappearances declined dramatically in 1986. Significant
numbers of political detainees, including leading political
and military figures associated with ZAPU, were released from
jail. The Government also instituted orderly repatriation
procedures for Sindebele speaking refugees who had fled to
Botswana. These developments coincided with efforts by ZANU
to preach reconciliation and unity with ZAPU.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
a. Political Killing
In a notable change from previous years, there were no reports
of political killings by government security forces. In
Matabeleland, there was a marked relaxation of tensions in
many rural areas attributable, in part, to more disciplined
behavior by security forces in actions against armed Zimbabwe
dissidents and suspected dissident sympathizers. The
Government also sharply curtailed ZANU youth actions which in
previous years had resulted in several deaths and considerable
destruction of property and terrorizing of ZAPU supporters.
In contrast, political killings by armed dissidents continued
in 1986. According to official government figures for the 6
months ending June 30, 1986, dissidents committed 57 murders,
46 rapes, and 104 armed robberies. Dissident tactics are
often brutal, include torture, and are aimed at members of
ZANU, government officials, and civilians accused of "selling
out" to the Government.
b. Disappearance
Human rights observers in both Harare and Bulawayo reported no
new cases of disappearance in 1986. This contrasted sharply
with the situation in 1985, when an estimated 300 to 400
persons were reportedly abducted by government security
forces. Little progress has been made in locating these
missing persons, almost all of whom were from Sindebele-
speaking regions. The families of several missing persons
were reported to be preparing legal action against the
Government for failure to investigate adequately the
disappearances. There was particular international concern
about the safety of one refugee, Makhatini Guduza, who was
involuntarily repatriated from Botswana in February and turned
over to Zimbabwean security officials. He is believed to be
in detention, although no human rights monitoring
organizations have been able to establish where he is being
c. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment
Reliable reports indicate that the authorities continued to
apply torture in many security-related cases, notably against
several persons detained after the May 1986 South African raid
on Harare. An American citizen detained by police at that
time reported seeing cellmates suffering from severe physical
abuse .
The most common form of torture appears to be physical
beating, including beating the soles of the feet to conceal
evidence of mistreatment. Electric shocks are reportedly
another, though less common, form of torture. The most
notorious technique of torture is reportedly simulated
drowning whereby the victim's head is placed in a water-filled
canvas bag or lowered into a bucket of water .
Senior government officials strongly deny that torture is
condoned but have admitted that isolated, unauthorized
instances may have occurred. In July Home Affairs Minister
Nkala warned an audience of police officials that torture
would not be tolerated. This warning was preceded by the High
Court's awarding of $17,400 in damages ($8,700 to come from
Nkala and $8,700 from the officers specifically involved) to
an opposition politician who had claimed that he was illegally
arrested and tortured. However, despite official disclaimers,
reports indicate that prisoner mistreatment continued in 1986.
Available evidence shows that prison conditions in Zimbabwe
are generally spartan but not harsh. In particular, there
have been allegations of serious overcrowding, poor sanitary
and medical facilities, and routine torture in the notorious
Stops Camp detention facility in Bulawayo; however, foreign
visitors in February found that the Stops Camp, while small
and unsuitable for long-term detention, probably was equipped
to handle short-term prisoners in a humane fashion. The
Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, a nongovernmental group
of American lawyers which has visited Zimbabwe, has noted that
there have also been a substantial number of reports of abuses
occurring at other detention facilities throughout
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
A state of emergency, renewed every 6 months by parliamentary
vote, has been in continuous effect in Zimbabwe since 1965.
Under the state of emergency, persons may be detained without
an arrest warrant and held up to 7 days before being informed
of the reasons for detention. Reasons for detention are often
so vaguely worded as to make meaningful representations by the
detainee on his own behalf impossible. After 30 days,
detainees must appear before an independent review tribunal
which can order the detainee's release if evidence is
insufficient to warrant continued incarceration. If the
tribunal recommends continued detention, however, the case
need not be reviewed again for another 6 months.
The Government 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.
Emergency powers have also been used to detain political
opponents of the ruling party on allegations of coup plotting.
It is virtually impossible to specify the number of persons
currently detained on politically related charges. Many will
probably never be brought to trial. In July a group of
approximately 60 political detainees (almost all from
Matabeleland) were released from jail. At least some of these
are believed to have been among the 90 to 100 persons an
eyewitness reported finding in the so-called "political block"
at a maximum security prison in Harare in June 1986. In
August 10 leading opposition politicians and military figures
who had been in detention without trial for a year (for
alleged coup plotting) were released by order of the Prime
Minister. In early December, the Government released another
five detainees, including former ZAPU military commander
Dumiso Dabengwa, who was acquitted of treason charges in 1983
and redetained under the Emergency Powers Act, and Phillip
Hartlebury and Colin Evans, former CIO officers charged with
spying for South Africa, who were arrested in 1981, acquitted
in 1983, and then redetained under the same Act.
Dabengwa ' s release was the culmination of a year-long
government effort to improve atmospherics between ZANU and
ZAPU. With it, all top ZAPU leaders are now out of detention,
as are many lower level ZAPU-af filiated detainees. In
announcing the release from detention of the 10 prominent
ZAPU-af filiated political and military leaders, the Home
Affairs Minister stated that the cases of another 200
lower-level detainees would be reviewed with an eye towards
possible release. This number roughly corresponded with
independent estimates of the number of detainees held without
charges on suspicion of antigovernment activity. In December,
however, the Minister stated that only 31 detainees remained
in jail. There undoubtably have been piecemeal releases since
August in addition to the ones that have been publicized, but
observers doubt that the number of political detainees, as
defined by human rights groups, has dropped as low as 31.
Zimbabwe law forbids the use of forced labor, and forced labor
is not practiced in Zimbabwe.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The number of political prisoners, as distinct from political
detainees who have never been brought to trial, is unknown.
However, the existing state of emergency regulations that
allow security authorities to hold detainees for long periods
of time without formally charging them with any crime render
distinctions between political prisoners and detainees almost
superfluous .
The Government displayed a new willingness in 1986 to
prosecute officials suspected of involvement in political
killings. In February courts sentenced a ZANU official to
death for the murder in 1985 of five members of the opposition
United African National Congress (UANC) party. In July courts
also sentenced to death four soldiers found guilty of the
abduction, torture, and murder in 1983 of an Ndebele army
lieutenant, his wife, and two civilian companions. While
these examples may help to discourage official violence, many
political killings from the 1982-85 period have not been
formally investigated and are unlikely to be.
The existence of an independent judiciary in Zimbabwe remains
a powerful deterrent to arbitrary arrest and detention, and
persons brought to trial in regular criminal/civil cases can
be assured of a fair public hearing comparable to that found
in most Western democracies. The Government generally has
abided by court decisions even when it strongly opposes the
ruling. Well-publicized exceptions were the detentions
following court acquittal of Dabengwa, Hartlebury, and Evans
cited in section l.d. above. The Prime Minister and Home
Affairs Minister also both indicated in 1986 that the
executive branch did not consider itself bound to award
damages to individuals even if so ordered by the courts.
Emergency powers obviously limit the role of the courts, but
the Supreme Court in acquitting a political detainee in July
declared that the Government can no longer hold detainees by
merely citing emergency regulations and prevent courts from
examining the alleged reasons for their detention. The judge
also criticized the overall handling of the case by the police
investigators and Justice Ministry officials.
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 where
the Government orders proceedings to be held in camera.
Defendants must retain their own legal counsel as there is no
provision for public defenders. Defense counsel can present
evidence and confront witnesses. The right to appeal exists
in all cases.
With only 400 lawyers nationwide and a shortage of experienced
magistrates, Zimbabwe's judicial system is hard pressed to
cope with ordinary criminal case loads. Long pretrial delays
are thus common. Bail is left to the discretion of the
courts, although the Government can order the refusal of bail
in any case. The Government has made extensive use of this
prerogative in security-related cases.
f . Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home,
or Correspondence
The Constitution formally protects citizens from arbitrary
search or entry. Under emergency powers regulations, however,
any police officer may stop and sec^rch any person or enter any
area without a warrant where he has "reasonable grounds" for
believing evidence of a crime may exist. Although no cases
have been brought to the courts, it is widely believed that
the Government also continues to monitor private
correspondence and telephones. Several government employees
privately complained in 1986 of obvious tampering with their
correspondence .
The right of citizens to refrain from associating with
political parties and organizations is not always respected in
Zimbabwe. Informal pressure has been brought to bear on
persons who refuse to identify publicly with the ruling
party. For example, there were numerous reports in 1986 of
job seekers suffering discrimination for failure to produce a
ZANU membership card. The Government does not officially
approve such discrimination but has not moved decisively to
curtail it. Similarly, reports from low-income suburbs around
Harare indicate that ZANU activists and youth cadre have
forced unwilling citizens to attend ZANU rallies, a practice
which was particularly widespread in 1985 during the general
election campaign. Perhaps because of vocal public resentment
and the danger of a popular backlash against ZANU, a senior
government minister publicly warned party activists in August
to discontinue this activity.
Zimbabwean 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 and without knowledge of the courts.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Zimbabwe Constitution guarantees freedom of expression but
allows for legislation limiting this freedom in certain cases
as, for example, when the "interests of defense, public
safety, public order, the economic interests of the State,
public morality and public health" are involved.
The Government tends to interpret broadly its power to
discourage free speech. For example, numerous persons were
arrested in 1986 and charged with misdemeanors under the
Miscellaneous Offenses Act for uttering remarks disrespectful
of the Prime Minister and/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 often 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.
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.
There were some examples of journalistic autonomy in 1986,
however. The media uncovered several instances of official
corruption and reported them. The government-controlled press
provided at least partial coverage of stormy parliamentary
debates involving personal attacks on governmment ministers.
There were also a number of reports criticizing inefficiency
or poor planning in selected social and economic areas.
The independent weekly Financial Gazette focuses on business
news but exhibits more investigative range (including
political converage) and analytic depth than government-owned
media. In October Information Minister Shamuyarira accused
the Financial Gazette of serving as a "mouthpiece" for foreign
powers after the paper published an editorial questioning
Zimbabwe's ability to withstand possible South African counter
sanctions. The Minister threatened unspecified action against
the paper unless it modified its reporting and editorial
procedures. The Financial Gazette hit back with a stinging
editorial in defense of press freedom. Thus far, no official
action has been taken against the paper. The same week, the
Minister warned a small Jewish publication in Bulawayo against
propagating Zionist ideas. The publication, essentially a
religious newsletter which avoids political issues, was
instructed to "tone down." In March the Minister summoned a
Zimbabwean correspondent for a Western press service to his
office and threatened to imprison the reporter if alleged
"anti-Zimbabwean writings" continued.
In 1986 at least three Zimbabwean journalists working for
foreign press organizations were threatened with detention and
as a result left the country. They were accused of writing
articles for the foreign press which the Government considered
objectionable .
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution formally guarantees 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. Few opposition political rallies took place in
1986. The most notable one occurred in Bulawayo in March when
ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo urged a crowd of 50,000 followers to
cooperate with the Government in combating dissidents in
Matabeleland. The low level of overt opposition activity in
1986 reflects both the continuing decline of opposition
parties and a presumption that even if permission to hold
public meetings were requested it generally would be denied.
Minority parties were also cautious as a result of the
turbulence of 1985, when legal opposition rallies were broken
up by thugs, and opposition party members were harassed by
ZANU youth gangs. Although there was no repeat in 1986 of
this open intimidation, a legacy of fear remains.
In contrast to the closely circumscribed activities of
minority parties, ZANU continued in 1986 to organize mass
meetings throughout Zimbabwe. The implicit message was that
membership in the ruling party is a sign of loyalty and
patriotism (as well as an advantage in terms of professional
and social advancement), whereas identification with minority
parties is a form of political deviance.
There are numerous nonpolitical business and employers'
organizations, professional associations, and recreational and
sports clubs, and they are generally free of governmental
interference. One important exception occurred in late 1985
when civic leaders and private citizens attempted to form a
booster committee for the city of Bulawayo. Police pressure
caused the committee to disband. The example illustrates the
Government's sensitivity to any associative activity with even
remote political connotations.
Under the comprehensive labor legislation passed in 1985,
labor has the right to organize and bargain collectively.
However, the Government sets all wages and wage increases and
issues regulations regarding hiring and firing, thus
effectively preempting a major function of the collective
bargaining process. In addition, Zimbabwe law permits only
"collective job action" which does not impact on "essential
services." Essential services are determined by the Minister
of Labor after consultation with employers and publication in
the Government Gazette. It is widely believed that any strike
action would be met by government resistance and effectively
negated by the Government's legal authority to declare any
service "essential." The Government and the ruling party also
exhort the unions, and the umbrella organization, the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), to work with them to achieve
the reorganization of social and economic life in Zimbabwe.
Despite these limitations, and the early stage of union
development (union membership represents 17 percent of
Zimbabwean workers), labor has begun to exert some influence
through public debates with the Government and has even used
the threat of strike action on wage issues. Although no
strike action has been taken (and is unlikely), the ZCTU has
become more vocal in its demands and incurred private
reprimands from the Government.
Unions have the right to affiliate with international
organizations. The ZCTU belongs to the Organization of Africa
Trade Union Unity and the Southern African Trade Union
Coordination Council and has contacts with both Western and
East bloc trade unions. Zimbabwe is also a member of the
International Labor Organization (ILO).
c. Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion is respected in Zimbabwe. There is no
state religion, and various denominations 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. A number of
senior ZANU officials are, in fact, clergymen. Many
government leaders received their education in mission
schools. Elective courses in religious studies are part of
the secondary school curriculum.
Several well-publicized clashes involving the Government and
individual churches occurred in 1986. These, however, appear
to have resulted from local disputes rather than from any
official effort to curtail religious freedom. For example, in
March the Anglican cathedral in Mutare was taken over by a mob
led by a local ZANU official. Services were disrupted,
several persons injured, property was damaged, and the local
Anglican bishop forced to flee. Police failed to intervene.
The conflict stemmed from a church decision to replace a local
mission headmaster, who mustered local political pressure on
the church to reverse its decision. Other government disputes
with churches have involved one denomination's resistance to
mandatory inoculations for school children and temporary
closure of another church due to fighting within the
congregation. In both cases, the Government successfully
negotiated a resumption of normal religious activity.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Travel at home and abroad is not subject to official
restrictions, although travel restrictions have been
occasionally applied when it was believed individuals might
criticize the Government before foreign audiences. This
practice does not appear to be widespread. A more serious
practical obstacle to foreign travel is currency control,
which limits the amount of money ($260) that nationals can
carry out of the country each year on tourist travel.
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. With unexpected numbers of whites
who had left Zimbabwe for South Africa now returning, the
Government has initiated security-risk checks as part of the
return process. Applicants must also demonstrate proof of
livelihood. The new regulations do not apply to Zimbabweans
who have been abroad as diplomats, students, or workers in
branch offices of Zimbabwe-based firms.
Repatriates from South Africa are viewed also as economic
competition to black Zimbabweans. Many have taken lesser
paying jobs upon their return to Zimbabwe. Another
significant group of repatriates consists of political
refugees who have returned primarily from Dukwe Camp in
Botswana. Almost 700 of these repatriates have reentered
Zimbabwe since December 1985. How they have fared is not
known, since they dispersed after reentry. Zimbabwe has
accepted at least 26,000 displaced persons from Mozambique,
who are accommodated in camps near the Mozambican border.
These persons, whom the Government intends to repatriate
eventually to Mozambique, are for the most part fleeing civil
Strife and economic deprivation. There are smaller numbers of
South African, Angolan, and Namibian refugees in Zimbabwe.
Political refugees from Kenya have also been given asylum.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Zimbabwe is a multiparty, parliamentary-style democracy
fashioned after the Westminster model. Members of Parliament
represent electoral districts and are chosen by direct,
universal suffrage, albeit with black and white voting rolls.
The Prime Minister is Head of Government, is responsible to
Parliament, and is also head of ZANU. He presides over the
Cabinet, which is the executive decisionmaking body. While
decisions in Cabinet are made by consensus, there are few
known instances of cabinet ministers overruling the
preferences of the Prime Minister.
In general elections in 1985, ZANU consolidated its position
as the preeminent political party in Zimbabwe. ZANU now
controls 66 of 100 seats in the House of Assembly, while the
main opposition party, ZAPU, holds 14 seats and another
opposition party, ZANU-S, retains 1 seat. Of 20 House of
Assembly seats reserved for whites, Ian Smith's Conservative
Alliance holds 14, the Independent Zimbabwe Group counts 4
seats, and there is 1 unaffiliated white member. One white
conservative parliamentarian defected to ZANU in 1986.
Although ZANU's clear parliamentary majority guarantees
control over the legislative branch, the ruling party still
lacks the requisite 70 votes to introduce fundamental changes
in the Constitution. Beginning in 1987, portions of the
Constitution can be revised by a 70 percent vote in the House
of Assembly.
Prime Minister Mugabe has announced his intention to proceed
towards establishment of a one-party state. He has also
indicated that the separate white electoral roll will be
eliminated in 1987, as permitted in the Constitution.
Creation of a one-party state in Zimbabwe is expected to
significantly alter the current governing arrangement whereby
opposition parties, although discriminated against and
discouraged by the Government, still play an important role in
preserving democratic processes.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged violations
of Human Rights
The Zimbabwean Government is highly sensitive to charges by
international, nongovernmental organizations of hviman rights
abuses in Zimbabwe. Amnesty International reports on Zimbabwe
and its sustained efforts to get the Government to investigate
human rights abuses were vehemently denounced in Parliament by
the Prime Minister and other senior ministers as "lies." Home
Affairs Minister Nkala publicly charged on several occasions
in 1986 that Amnesty and several foreign governments
interested in human rights problems, including the United
States, were actively providing assistance to armed groups
seeking to overthrow the Zimbabwe Government. The Government
has attempted to frustrate the investigative activities of the
Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, which published a major
study in 1986 on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.
Nkala also publicly accused the group of being under the
control of the Central Intelligence Agency.
In August the Home Affairs Minister convoked representatives
from all nongovernmental and private voluntary organizations
active in Zimbabwe and warned them of severe penalties for
passing information on alleged human rights violations to
foreign-based watchdog groups. Nkala said that a cabinet
decision had been made to suppress the flow of "false"
information to human rights monitoring groups and that a
cabinet committee had been formed to pursue the matter.
These actions appear to signal a government crackdown on human
rights reporting in Zimbabwe. At the same time, senior
government officials have continued to publicly deny that
human rights abuses occur in Zimbabwe except in exceptional
and unauthorized cases. In line with these denials, the
Government has consistently refused to respond to an offer by
the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide
protection assistance (visits) to prisoners.
Despite hardline public positions, there is evidence of
private governmental concern about human rights practices in
Zimbabwe and the negative image Zimbabwe has acquired abroad.
Prominent foreigners for example, were allowed to inspect the
Stops Camp detention facility in Bulawayo, where torture and
prisoner mistreatment is alleged to have occurred. In June
the Prime Minister intervened almost immediately following
intercession by local and international human rights groups to
order the release from detention of prominent human rights
activists Michael Auret and Nicholas Ndebele, the top
officials of the Zimbabwean Catholic Commission on Justice and
Peace. Also, senior government ministers have on several
occasions privately expressed a willingness to investigate
cases involving alleged human rights abuses and to seek
remedial action if necessary.
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 services to
all. However, in many rural areas the neglect of the
preindependence period still leaves the Government struggling
to provide minimum care. Many blacks on commercial farms are
still in a semifeudal status, dependent mainly on white
farmers to provide basic care and schooling.
The Minister of Labor mediated several cases in 1986 of
charges of white employers discriminating against black
employees. In some cases, companies have reinstated or
promoted black employees following the Ministry's
investigations. 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 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 are still vulnerable to
traditional law, particularly concerning inheritance
practices. The proposed Intestate Succession Law, dealing
with inheritance when there is no valid will, aims to prevent
any distribution of property before the court has been
informed of a death and an officer is appointed to administer
the estate. The court will not distribute the estate unless
the surviving spouse and children are allowed to live in the
family house. The contribution of wives to family property
was recognized in the Matrimonial Causes Act passed in late
1985, which requires that family assets be distributed
equitably when couples divorce. Despite the Government's
actions on women's rights, the tradition of "lobola"
(bride-price) continues. Police attempts to crack down on
prostitution in 1986, prior to the Non-Aligned Movement Summit
meeting, led to the indiscriminate harassment and detention of
numbers of innocent women and sparked public and parliamentary
The 1985 Labor Relations Act calls for strict enforcement of
acceptable standards of health and safety. Under Zimbabwe
law, the 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 14,000 work-related accidents and illnesses in 1985 among
the 1 million workers covered by government labor statistics.
Minimum wage levels in Zimbabwe are set by the Government
along sectoral lines. The current level for agroindustr ial
workers is about $73 per month. The minimum for domestics is
$57. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has called upon
the Government to establish a minimum "living wage" for its
members of $162 per month. The Government has responded by
saying that future increases will be tied to increases in
national productivity, which will not permit the substantial
increases in the foreseeable future that would be recjuired to
meet the unions' demand.