Govt lacks capacity to curb labour abuses

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

A lack of adequate labour inspectors has been pinpointed as one of the reasons why there is the prevalence of gross labour abuses in Zimbabwe.

According to a report released by the Human Rights Watch titled ‘Child Labour and Human Rights Abuses on Tobacco Farms in Zimbabwe’, the country has about 120 labour inspectors and that most workers on farms have never interacted with an inspector in their lives.

“Very few of the hired workers on small or large scale farms who were interviewed for this report said they had never seen a labour inspector or other government officials visit their workplace to inspect working conditions,” said the report.

On page 105 of the report, Human Rights Watch revealed that there were excessive working hours without overtime compensation on large-scale tobacco farms.

“Many of the interviewed by Human Rights Watch including some children said employers pressured and in some cases required them to work past their designated working hours without additional compensation,” states the report.

Farm-worker union organizers are also said to have raised concern over the lack of labour inspectors by government adding that it is leaving labourers at the mercy of employers especially on farms.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Human Rights Watch Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga said the Ministry of Labour and Social Services through the NSSA confirmed that it has not documented any labour malpractices in the tobacco farming sector.

Many tobacco farm workers are also said to have confessed that they have problems with regards to their wages, which range between late payment and underpayment, and that most work under hazardous environments that pose health threats.

In 2013, government and the International Labour Organisation started working on a national labour inspection and enforcement policy framework aimed at ensuring that labour laws including safety and health standards are adhered to by employer but up to now, there have not been many efforts to ensure the policy can be enacted into law.

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