ITUC condemns draconian new laws


By Staff Reporter

The ITUC has condemned 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 new Health Services Amendment Act contains the following clauses which are set to stifle the rights of health workers:

•        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.

In a statement, the ITUC said; “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.

The government of Zimbabwe enacted the Health Services Act in reaction to crippling strikes by health workers demanding better working conditions. The government wants to shrink health workers’ right of expression while failing to avail better wages and utilities in health institutions

The ITUC also condemned the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill that is currently before Parliament which is to 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 these draconian legislations and to address the decent work deficits that have 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.

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