Lawyers push for repeal of ‘draconian’ Health Services Act

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has urged the government to repeal laws that deprive workers of their freedom and infringe on their rights.

In a statement to commemorate International Worker’s Day, ZLHR implored the government to promote workers’ rights and allow them to advocate for better working conditions.

The human rights organisation noted that laws such as the Health Services Act, strip healthcare workers of the right to petition and demonstrate when their expectations are not met at work. 

They further condemned the prosecution of teachers’ unions, stating that such conduct violates workers’ rights to express themselves. 

“ZLHR urges the government to respect, protect and promote the right of all workers to petition and demonstrate peacefully for better working conditions and their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association,” the statement read.

“It should stop the persecution and prosecution of workers and labour activists and repeal the Health Services Amendment Act. Boost workers’ income through slashing excessive taxes and high mandatory pension contributions.

There is need to immediately implement vigorous measures to arrest the escalating prices of commodities and services and tame the local currency in order to protect the purchasing power of workers and their families and dependents.”

ZLHR said it is saddening that Zimbabwean workers remain wallowing in extreme poverty even though the country is endowed with natural resources such as precious minerals, which are being exploited by the few elite and are also grappling with shortages of basic amenities.

They further reminded the government of its obligations contained in the founding values and principles of the Constitution which place duty for it to adhere to the principles of good governance which entails transparency, justice, accountability and responsiveness.

“Of great concern to ZLHR is the recent enactment of the Health Services Act, which outlaws industrial action lasting more than three days by healthcare workers and requires them to provide written notice of 48 hours before a job action begins,” the statement read. 

“ZLHR condemns the enactment of such a draconian law and the unjustified and punitive sanctions it imposes on healthcare workers as they are contrary to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association, which are fundamental freedoms enshrined in Section 61 and Section 58 of the Constitution.”

ZLHR reiterated that company closures and uncompetitive wages and salaries, most workers have been condemned to informal sector trading. 

“It is worrying these eking out a living by way of informal trade are always at the mercy of government as running battles continue to be experienced between informal sector traders and municipal police and ZRP and has at times led to arrests and persecution of informal traders on flimsy charges,” ZLHR said.

“We note with particular concern the persecution and prosecution of teacher trade unions, ordinary workers and individual citizens, which in most cases has failed to yield anything tangible in terms of convictions as they have been acquitted after standing trial on flimsy charges.”

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