Zimbabwe: ITUC condemns draconian new laws

photo: Jekesai NJIKIZANA AFP

The ITUC condemns the Zimbabwean government’s recently published Health Services Amendment Act and Criminal Law Amendment Bill that would stifle the rights of working people to freedom of expression and association.

The Health Services Amendment Act includes that:

  • No collective job action, lawful or unlawful, can continue for an uninterrupted 72-hour period or more in any given 14-day period.
  • Notice of any collective job action must be given in writing 48 hours before it starts.
  • Any individual who is a member of the governing body of any trade union that incites or organises any collective job action in the health service could be guilty of an offense and liable to a fine or to imprisonment of up to six months or to both.

The ITUC reiterates that the ILO principles concerning the rights to strike state that “no one should be penalised for carrying out or attempting to carry out a legitimate strike and that penal sanctions should not be imposed on any worker for participating in a peaceful strike.”

Legislation that imposes sanctions against strike threats is contrary to freedom of expression and the principles of freedom of association.

Criminal Law Amendment Bill

The ITUC also condemns the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill that is currently before Parliament.

The law will make it:

  • A crime for “wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”.
  • An offence for any Zimbabwean to seek support from a foreign country in a way that the government decides undermines the sovereignty, dignity, and independence of the country.
  • Punishable to speak out against the government’s policies, with penalties depending on the nature of the meeting held and the outcome of that meeting.

The penalties for these new offences vary from a fine, to life imprisonment or a death sentence. The new law is a near replica of China’s National Security Law, imposed on Hong Kong in 2020.

For years the ITUC, the ILO, UN human rights bodies and the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights have called on the government of Zimbabwe to amend the penal code that violates the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

These laws, under the government of Emmerson Mnangagwa, continue to disregard Zimbabwe’s international obligations.

The ITUC calls upon the Zimbabwean government to:

  • Amend this draconian legislation.
  • Address the decent work deficit that has forced working people to take strike action, rather than repressing them.

The working people and citizens of Zimbabwe deserve a responsible government that respects their rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and international labour conventions to which Zimbabwe is a party.