1 May 2023 - Harare - ActionAid Zimbabwe (AAZ) joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Workers' Day. This year's celebrations are running under the theme “A safe and healthy working environment is a fundamental principle and right at work.” AAZ urges the government to strictly observe and implement the country’s labour and employment laws to strengthen workers' rights in terms of written contracts, safety, health, and environmental obligations to their employees, and equal opportunities for both sexes, particularly in the mining sector.
The commemorations this year are taking place against a backdrop of rising human rights violations and lack of compliance to human rights obligations, statutory commitments, and responsibilities, particularly in the extractives sector. For instance, granite mining companies in Mutoko have been alleged as major perpetrators of human rights violations, such as eviction of communities from communal lands without compensation, loss of livelihoods, damage to houses, noise and air pollution, massive land degradation leading to infringement of land and property rights, and labour related rights.
According to an AAZ report entitled The state of business and human rights in the mining sector in Zimbabwe (2021), most mining companies in the granite sector lack on-site health care and instead rely on medical facilities that are several kilometres away s making it difficult for workers and community members to access emergency health services. This is a violation of the fundamental principle and right to a safe and healthy workplace. The report further indicated that there is high job insecurity in the sector as most companies make use of short-term contracts that are renewed now and then depriving the workers long term employment benefits. The companies use these short-term contracts as a way of also intimidating workers from demanding better wages or striking for better conditions as their short-term contracts will not be renewed.
AAZ observes that the current labour practices in the mining sector affects men and women differently. For instance, recruitment in the granite sector favours men over women. This suggests that women in Mutoko mining area have a greater rate of unemployment. As we celebrate, International Workers' Day mining companies must adhere to the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) on Business and Human Rights to effectively identify, prevent, and mitigate potential and actual human rights violations in their supply chain.
While the Government of Zimbabwe has recently committed to improving decent work and social justice for workers by signing of the Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) covering 2022 – 2026 which is commendable, AAZ calls on the Zimbabwean Government to:
- Establish labour inspectorates at the district level, which must operate within a framework of simplified rules.
- Companies must ensure job security by providing written contracts that specify employment benefits and terms of contracts as required by the law.
- Companies must regularly publish and disclose their adherence to prescribed wages; to health and safety conditions prescribed by law, and compliance with ILO decent work principles generally applicable in the mining context.
- Companies must promote employees right to freedom of association, right to join, form and participate in trade unions and the right to collective job actions.
- Establish clear guidelines and rules for relocating families, individuals, and communities to give way to granite mining.
- Review its laws on tenure security, customary and communal land rights to enhance recognition and strength of communal rights to land. The law must clearly set out a criterion to be used for adequate compensation for mining induced relocations.
For further comments and inquiries please contact us on the details below:
ActionAid Zimbabwe Country Director, Joy Mabenge
Mobile: +263 772904479