The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined fifth to eleventh periodic report of Zimbabwe, with Committee Experts commending the State on the 2013 Constitution, while asking questions about the role of the National Peace and Reconciliation mechanism and the treatment of refugees.
Gay McDougall, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, complimented Zimbabwe on the 2013 Constitution, which contained many positive components. Ms. McDougall was concerned by reports that the violent events that resulted in the killing of approximately 20,000 largely Ndebele-speaking persons in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces, killed by Government forces in the early 1980s, remained a source of ethnic tension, with no accountability for the deaths or justice for survivors. Could the delegation provide information on the composition and activities of the National Peace and Reconciliation mechanism? What steps had been taken to ensure victims had access to legal remedies and that all claims were investigated?
Yeung Sik Yuen, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member, said that in their Joint Submission of July 2022, the Global Detention Project and Lawyers for Human Rights stated that under the refugees and immigration laws, no person admitted to Zimbabwe as a refugee was permitted to leave an area designated for refugee residence, unless authorised. However, it appeared that Zimbabwe had shifted towards a graduation approach in refugee policy so that refugees were self-sustainable. Had this shift in policy been implemented and had the necessary law been amended? Considering that citizenship by registration required 10 years residence, had there been requests to obtain Zimbabwean citizenship by some refugees and how many? Could the State party comment on reports of the forced return of refugees?
The delegation said that the Peace and Reconciliation Commission was formed to ensure that national cohesion and harmony was brought into society, and to solve issues of conflict. It was not constituted to deal with the Ndebele issue. Each area had customs which they used to solve these issues. As a community, the traditional leaders aimed to appease the spirts of the deceased and ensure that their families were at peace. There was a budget each year for the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission; it was fully functional and carrying out activities.
Concerning refugees, the delegation said that all refugees were required to reside in one camp to maintain order. There was an ongoing conversation regarding employment and refugees. There were opportunities for those who were skilled to be able to exercise their skills within the country, however, nothing had been concluded yet. It was unfortunately not part of Zimbabwean policy that refugees could be naturalised within Zimbabwean society as citizens. Instead, they were given the opportunity for repatriation or resettlement. They were given three months to decide, with the opportunity for an additional three-month extension. If a refugee violated laws and attacked police officers, they were deported. Those who had been deported were criminals.
Ziyambi Ziyambi, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe and head of the delegation, introducing the report, said that in 2013, Zimbabwe adopted and promulgated a new Constitution which entrenched provisions such as the prohibition of all forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of race, nationality, colour, tribe, ethnic or social origin. Over the period of 2002 to 2013, to correct the inherited racial imbalance in land ownership patterns, the Government had embarked upon a massive land reform programme, which allowed for the compulsory acquisition of agricultural land for re-settlement purposes. Despite the engagement efforts of the Government, illegal unilateral coercive measures imposed on Zimbabwe by Western powers remained in place, which had weakened the country’s financial and banking sectors and undermined efforts to ensure the full protection and promotion of rights according to the Convention.
In concluding remarks, Ms. McDougall thanked the delegation for travelling to Geneva and entering into dialogue with the Committee. The Committee was looking forward to additional responses within the next 48 hours which would be taken into account. The Committee was glad to have Zimbabwe back after 20 years and hoped this would continue on a regular basis.
Mr. Ziyambi thanked the Chair and the Committee for their valuable engagement. He congratulated the Committee for its important work in fighting racial discrimination around the world, and said Zimbabwe was committed to playing a part in this noble endeavour.
The delegation of Zimbabwe consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs; the Ministry of Finance and Economic Trade; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade; the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development; the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Small to Medium Enterprise and Community Development; the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Fisheries; the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education; the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare; the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage; the Deputy Attorney General’s Office; the Special Anti-Corruption Unit; the Policy and Legal Research Department; the Office of the President and Cabinet; the IMC Secretariat; the Public Service Commission; the Zimbabwe Republic Police; and the Permanent Mission of Zimbabwe to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Zimbabwe at the end of its one hundred and seventh session, which concludes on 30 August. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s one hundred and seventh session and other documents related to the session can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 18 August at 3 p.m. to review the combined sixteenth to eighteenth periodic report of Suriname (CERD/C/SUR/16-18).
The Committee has before it the combined fifth to eleventh periodic report of Zimbabwe (CERD/C/ZWE/Q/5-11).
Presentation of Report
ZIYAMBI ZIYAMBI, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe and head of the delegation, said that in 2013, Zimbabwe adopted and promulgated a new Constitution which entrenched provisions such as the prohibition of all forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of race, nationality, colour, tribe, ethnic or social origin. Zimbabwe’s laws had gradually been aligned to this Constitution, allowing citizens to enforce their rights whenever there were violations. The Constitution prohibited the treatment of any person in an unfair discriminatory manner on any grounds, including race, tribe, place of origin, national or ethnic origin, political opinions, colour, creed or gender. Zimbabwe had not entered any limitations regarding the scope or the definition of racial discrimination in domestic law. The Constitution made provision for three categories of citizenship namely birth, descent, and registration, and all citizens, regardless of race, were equally entitled to the rights, as enshrined in law.
On the critical issue of land ownership, Zimbabwe had committed to eliminating racial discrimination in this emotional and sensitive area. At independence, the Government had inherited an entrenched land-tenure system reflecting the racially skewed legacy of a century of colonial occupation, oppression and racial injustice. Some 4,500 settler farmers owned 12.5 million hectares of a total of 15 million hectares of arable land, while 7.4 million indigenous Zimbabweans owned just 2.5 million hectares. Over the period of 2002 to 2013, to correct the inherited racial imbalance in land ownership patterns, the Government had embarked upon a massive land reform programme, which allowed for the compulsory acquisition of agricultural land for re-settlement purposes. To ensure that those whose land was acquired by the Government received reasonable compensation, the Government entered into the Global Compensation Agreement with former farm owners in 2020. This reflected the State’s commitment to the successful land redistribution process in a manner that restored the integrity, dignity, and racial balance of the people of Zimbabwe.
Mr. Ziyambi said that the country’s Education Act had deliberate provisions addressing the interests of minority groups, and prohibited discrimination against any child regarding admission to school on the grounds of race. All 16 official languages were now being taught in schools. Five independent Commissions played ubiquitous roles in supporting democracy and good governance, including the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. Zimbabwe continued to strengthen the implementation of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its Protocols, and recently adopted a response strategy to climate related displacement to address the challenges faced by internally displaced persons. In 2019, Zimbabwe developed the National Referral Mechanism for Vulnerable Migrants, which linked together the different stakeholders involved in identification, referral, assistance, repatriation, and monitoring. The Government also established reception centres at main ports of entry, guaranteeing migrants and asylum seekers a place of safety, transport assistance, food, and medical care, among other support services.
Despite the engagement efforts of the Government, illegal unilateral coercive measures imposed on Zimbabwe by Western powers remained in place, which had weakened the country’s financial and banking sectors and undermined efforts to ensure the full protection and promotion of rights according to the Convention. Mr. Ziyambi also highlighted concerns regarding the shadow report, which was submitted by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, including the misrepresentation that Zimbabwe’s labour laws did not represent the information sector, which was incorrect. Furthermore, the use of hate speech contained in the shadow report was regrettable and contrary to the spirit of the Convention. The State also objected to the use of the term “massacres”, which was actually a political matter, concluded in 1987 with the signing of the Unity Accord. Mr. Ziyambi reiterated that Zimbabwe was striving to reverse the entrenched and institutionalised racism practised by a colonial minority settler regime. Accordingly, the State stood fully committed to taking all means to adhere to the Convention.
Questions by Committee Experts
GAY MCDOUGALL, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said she was aware of the challenges the Government had inh0erited, and would have this in mind as the review proceeded. Ms. McDougall complimented Zimbabwe on the 2013 Constitution, which contained many positive components. She asked for information and statistics on the composition of the State party’s population, including ethnic or linguistic minorities and all non-nationals, including asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless persons, and other migrants. The Committee was aware that there were 16 officially recognised language groups in the State party, of which Shona speakers were the majority and Ndebele speakers were a minority. There were particular communities that self-identified as Doma and others as Tschwa. These groups met internationally recognised definitions of indigenous peoples. There were also people who under the colonial apartheid system were classified as coloured, and those of European ancestry, referred to as white, as well as non-citizens.
Did the State intend to adopt a more comprehensive anti-discrimination law, including a definition of direct and indirect discrimination, in line with article 1 of the Convention? Which laws currently infringed on the right to racial discrimination, and what was the plan to amend these laws? Which provisions of the Convention had been incorporated into national law and which ones were still to be incorporated? Were there instances in which courts, tribunals or other bodies in the State party had applied or referenced the Convention?
Ms. McDougall was concerned by reports that the violent events that resulted in the killing of approximately 20,000 largely Ndebele-speaking persons in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces, killed by Government forces in the early 1980s, remained a source of ethnic tension with no accountability for the deaths or justice for survivors. Could the delegation provide information on the composition and activities of the National Peace and Reconciliation mechanism? What was the ethnic background of its members? Were victims and others affected by the events involved and consulted regarding its activities? What steps had been taken to ensure victims had access to legal remedies and all claims were investigated? Could statistics around this be provided? What measures had been taken to prevent ongoing conflicts fuelled by these past events? Could the State party comment on allegations regarding survivors of the Gukurahundi atrocities? Had these allegations been investigated?
Could the delegation share statistics on the representation of ethnic minorities in the Government, the parliament and in other political decision-making bodies in the State party? Could statistics be shared on the representation of ethnic minorities in the civil service? The Committee was concerned by reports that historical tensions between the Shona-speaking majority and the Ndebele-speaking minority had resulted in the political marginalisation of the Ndebele by the Shona-led Government. What measures had been taken to ensure equal social and economic opportunities for regions with large ethno-linguistic minority populations?
The Committee was concerned by reports that land redistribution in the State party had favoured persons linked to the ruling party, resulting in certain ethnic groups being favoured in this process, with others being discriminated against. Could the delegation provide disaggregated statistics of its land reform policies, including on financial and technical support and machinery received? Could the delegation provide information on the actions taken by the Zimbabwe Land Commission to ensure accountability, fairness, non-discrimination and transparency in the administration of agricultural land that vested in the State? Why were those previously classified as coloured (mixed race) persons being excluded from accessing land? The Committee had seen reports that white farmers continued to be targeted, harassed, and threatened with eviction. Could the delegation please share any information it had on such incidents, and measures it had taken to prevent them?
Could the delegation inform on measures it had taken to ensure that its responses to the pandemic benefitted everyone protected under the Convention without discrimination?
Ms. McDougall said the Committee was concerned by reports that the livelihoods and traditional lifestyles of some indigenous communities were under threat, due to expropriation of lands traditionally used by them and by hunting bans on such lands. Could the delegation describe laws or other safeguards that existed to protect the livelihoods and traditional lifestyle of these communities? Were indigenous communities affected by hunting bans and expropriation of land consulted and given the right to prior informed consent? What measures were in place for indigenous communities who struggled to meet basic needs? Had the State party conducted any awareness-raising or educational campaigns to eliminate prejudices and negative stereotypes against indigenous communities? Which languages were close to extinction and what was being done to preserve them?
Was there information about how many pupils were taught in which of the official 16 languages and how many children had difficulties accessing education in their mother tongue? How were issues of discrimination and racial divergence reflected in the school curriculum? In previous concluding observations, the Committee expressed concern about racial segregation created by the parallel public and private schools. Could the delegation give quantitative and qualitative information about the racial and ethnic mixture in the schools currently? Were families of all ethno-linguistic groups able to access all schools on an equal basis?
YEUNG SIK YUEN, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member, noted that laws relating to freedom of expression and freedom of the media excluded incitement to violence and advocacy of hate speech. Had there been many cases brought under section 42 of the Criminal Law Act or under section 6 of the Prevention of Discrimination Act? Had there been any dismissal of cases prosecuted under section 42 for lack of proof that the questioned offence was not committed “publicly”?
Mr. Yuen commended Zimbabwe on adding a section to the Unlawful Organizations Act whereby “the President may declare any organization to be an unlawful organization if the President was satisfied on reasonable grounds that the activities of the organization are aimed at promoting, inciting or propagating racial discrimination.” Following this amendment had any organization been declared to be unlawful pursuant to that Act?
Did criminal legislation in the State party include a racist motivation as an aggravating circumstance? Could the delegation provide statistics on registered complaints before courts for acts of racist hate speech and racist hate crimes, including over the Internet and through media outlets?
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission could investigate violations of human rights, including racial discrimination. Upon a finding of racial discrimination, the Commission was empowered to secure appropriate relief, including recommending for the prosecution of offenders. How many investigations of alleged racial discrimination had the Commission carried out? How many recommendations had the Commission made so far and had these recommendations been followed up by other institutions in Zimbabwe?
GUN KUT, Committee Expert and Follow-Up Rapporteur, said that the last time the State party was reviewed by the Committee was in 2000, and the follow-up procedure was not yet in place. This time moving forward, the Committee would request the State party to provide a report within one year of the drafting of the concluding observations. This would be expected to contain additional information on particular issues, for which concrete results could be achieved within one year. The aim was to ensure an interim mechanism, which continued the dialogue between the Committee and the State party. It also presented an opportunity for the State to show its performance on some of the issues identified by the Committee, and come up with solutions to these problems. The Committee attached great importance to this procedure, and the timeliness of the interim reports would be of utmost importance.
A Committee Expert asked about a law on stripping Zimbabwean nationality from persons. Had this law been reviewed? Could the delegation provide statistics on those who had been granted citizenship and the number of people whose citizenships had been revoked and why?
Another Committee Expert congratulated the State party for the many legal cases which had invoked the Convention. How were cases relating to article 42 investigated and how were victims compensated? Was there education available free of charge in State schools? The report outlined that private schools were only accessible to the rich; were there any State schools which provided primary and secondary education free of charge?
One Committee Expert said that in 2019, women representation in the Senate was 44 per cent, and out of 103 chief executive officers in the country, only 15 were women. Could statistical information be provided regarding women’s leadership in the public and private sector, disaggregated by race? Had the Economic Empowerment Act been implemented? Could disaggregated statistics be provided on persons and associations who benefitted from the Act?
A Committee Expert asked what role civil society had played in drafting the report, and their most important contributions? Were civil society organizations able to go about their mission of protecting the groups protected under the Convention. It was reported that over 3 million people faced statelessness in Zimbabwe. What was being done by the Government to align the acts on statelessness with the Constitution? Did the Government plan to adopt a law to protect human rights defenders?
Another Committee Expert was surprised that the State’s Education Act did not mention public schooling, or a compulsory education law. Was this true?
A Committee Expert asked about nationality, stating that 35 per cent of citizens were from Mozambique and a substantial portion were from Malawi. How was it these countries had such large numbers in Zimbabwe? Why had they not accessed Zimbabwean nationality?
One Committee Expert noted the great achievements by the State party in the legislation and the efforts to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, which was appreciated.
A Committee Expert congratulated Zimbabwe for ratifying a major statelessness Convention, asking if there were plans to ratify the second? Did Zimbabwe have a national action plan to eradicate statelessness and would this be done in the next two years?
Responses by the Delegation
ZIYAMBI ZIYAMBI, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe and head of the delegation, said that a census had been held earlier this year. According to current data, Zimbabwe’s population was at more than 15 million, and more than 99 per cent belonged to the African group. There was no grouping called Shona; this was divided into several groups. The country spoke to regional balance, rather than ethnic balance. There was no discrimination against any group of citizens, including those described as ethnic minorities within the country. Such discrimination was specifically prohibited by the Constitution, and the Government had enacted legislation which gave effect to the inclusivity of all citizens. Programmes were being implemented which specifically targeted minority tribes. The Parliament had a 50/50 representation of males and females within the Senate.
Through the land reform programme, 360,500 families had been resettled. The programme was being implemented in a non-discriminatory matter. Resettlements based on ethnic lines were not encouraged. It did not matter which tribes people were from; rather that every Zimbabwean had access to land. Every Zimbabwean must be granted citizenship. On COVID-19, the programmes targeted provinces, and persons who needed to access vaccines were never asked about ethnic origin. The distribution of COVID vaccines was equal across provinces.
The Government had taken measures to enhance access to education and the Education Act provided for free, basic education for all learners. The majority of schools were local authority or government schools. Every primary school had a secondary school, and every province had a State university. Zimbabwe was proud of what had been achieved in education so far. There was no region that was disadvantaged when it came to education. As a country, Zimbabwe had had conflicts in the past. The war on liberation ended in 1980 and the forces and communities were integrated soon after independence. In 1987 there was a political settlement where people and parties were united, which concluded the process at that juncture. For the communities which wanted to raise concerns, this was being done through traditional leaders, who were raising issues they wanted to address, in order to bring them to a close.
Mr. Ziyambi said that in Zimbabwe, hate speech was not targeted at an ethnic group, but was instead reflected in contention between political parties. There were no prominent racially reported cases; rather these constituted politically motivated violence.
Questions by a Committee Expert
GAY MCDOUGALL, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, reminded the delegation of the importance for the Committee to be provided with actual statistics. The Committee wanted to know what the situation was on the ground, and statistics helped to reveal this. Ms. McDougall had not yet seen a country which had achieved equality without looking at the data on the ground and had self-corrected based on that data. Had the Constitutional mandates of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission been met or were they no longer viable? Just because there was no longer conflict did not mean that there were no longer feelings or memories that people had of those events. The purpose of the Commission was to deal with those feelings, which was different from the role of traditional leaders.
Responses by the Delegation
ZIYAMBI ZIYAMBI, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe and head of the delegation, said that there was a lot of data which could be provided, however, it was not disaggregated according to tribal lines; it was dealt with according to region and province. There were 60 seats within the national assembly which were reserved for women, and anyone could contest the remaining seats. The State had implemented this to allow these women to become role models for young women. There was a general policy which stated that as far as possible, there must be gender balance.
The Peace and Reconciliation Commission was formed to ensure that national cohesion and harmony was brought into society, and to solve issues of conflict. It was not constituted to deal with the Ndebele issue. Each area had customs which they used to solve these issues. As a community, the traditional leaders aimed to appease the spirts of the deceased and ensure that their families were at peace. Could the Committee advise on what needed to be done to solve this? There was a budget each year for the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission; it was fully functional and carrying out activities.
In response to a question on reports that a woman could not register her child without her husband, and whether this an old policy, Mr. Ziyambi said that if a foreigner was married to a Zimbabwean, the children were entitled to a citizenship.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about the representation of women in the Zimbabwean stock exchange and the companies listed on the stock exchange, requesting a breakdown on the basis of race and women’s representation in those companies. Had the Economic Empowerment Act been successfully implemented?
Had the Citizens Act and the Migration Act been amended? Had a Commission been created under the Constitution and could figures on citizenship be provided?
A Committee Expert addressed the law which focused on hate speech, which was unrelated to political conflicts. How was the text enforced? Did the victims need to lodge a formal complaint for proceedings to be triggered? Was remedy or redress provided to victims? Could the delegation explain about school fees?
Since June last year there was a bill in the pipeline which would shrink the civic space for non-governmental organizations, providing the opportunity for fines. What was the State doing to integrate proposals made by civil society into this bill? What was being done to ensure that law enforcement knew about the Convention? Would a law be adopted to protect human rights defenders?
EUNG SIK YUEN, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member, said he had been disturbed to hear that hate speech was not reflected based on race, but rather on political parties, and the questions regarding this had been cast aside.
Responses by the Delegation
ZIYAMBI ZIYAMBI, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe and head of the delegation, said that the Citizens Act and the Migration Act were in the process of being aligned. The Constitution required any legislation to give regard to chapter 4, regarding the bill of rights. No one had been stripped of citizenship; however, all those who had been eligible to receive citizenship under the Constitution had been granted citizenship. The majority of Mozambiquans who crossed the border required special treatment; they came as refugees and needed to be treated accordingly. There were no documented cases of hate speech; however, laws covered this to ensure it did not happen. The delegation would check if there were any cases on hate speech which were pending before the courts. The bill in front of parliament was regulating a sector and was not discriminatory, it was speaking to something else. There could not be a law to protect one sector, such as human rights defenders. All sectors were protected on an equal basis.
Questions by Committee Experts
GAY MCDOUGALL, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said the Committee had received reports that during the colonial period, the majority of Black women in the labour market were trapped in the informal sector and domestic work, where wages were low, working conditions were poor, and there were no social services or legislation in place. What measures existed in the State party to prevent the different ways that racial discrimination affected women in domestic work and in the informal work economy? Did the delegation have information and statistics on discrimination of ethnic minorities in the labour market, such as the number and nature of complaints and compensation awarded to victims? How were the private and public sectors sanctioned in the case of proven acts of racial discrimination in the labour market?
The Committee had been informed that Chinese companies and personnel acted toward Zimbabwean employees with impunity, violating national legislation, including that relevant to the Convention. How many complaints of this nature had been received? What had been done to guarantee the dignity of all workers and prevent them from experiencing this treatment? Did the Committee have information regarding allegations of women being trafficked from rural areas to be domestic workers? Was there an ethnicity-based discriminatory aspect to this? Could the delegation provide information on the issue of racial or ethnicity-based profiling by the police or security forces in the State party?
Was any free legal aid available for victims of racial discrimination, hate speech or hate crimes, if needed? How many complaints had been received by police on racial discrimination and had then been brought to the courts, and what were their outcomes? What measures were taken to disseminate information to the public, ethnic minorities, lawyers, and other law enforcement officers about the prohibition of racial discrimination and available remedies?
Ms. McDougall said she was concerned about reports of wide-spread impunity for officials who had committed human rights abuses, asking what measures were being taken by the State party to address such impunity? What percentage of the judiciary and police forces in Zimbabwe was made up of persons belonging to ethnic minority groups? Were there programmes to encourage persons from ethnic minority groups to join the police force? Did any training programmes exist for law enforcement authorities to increase their understanding of racial discrimination, hate speech, and hate crime?
Ms. McDougall noted reports that the structure of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission did not guarantee its full independence, as it was required to submit its reports to parliament through the Justice Ministry. Why did these restrictions exist on the independence of the Human Rights Commission and did the State party plan to bring it into compliance with the Paris Principles? The Committee also noted reports that the Commission lacked the resources to fully carry out its mandate effectively and that it was not easily accessible. Could the delegation share information on the financial and human resources of the Commission, and about any effort to ensure it was accessible throughout the territory of the State party? Could information on the activities of the National Human Rights Institute regarding racial discrimination be provided?
YEUNG SIK YUEN, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member, was concerned about the lack of information provided on refugees, migrants and asylum seekers residing in Zimbabwe. What was the applicable date of the given number of refugees provided in the report? In their Joint Submission of July 2022, the Global Detention Project and Lawyers for Human Rights stated that under the refugees and immigration laws no person admitted to Zimbabwe as a refugee was permitted to leave an area designated for refugee residence, unless authorised. However, it appeared that Zimbabwe had shifted towards a graduation approach in refugee policy so that refugees had to be self-sustainable. Had this shift in policy been implemented and had the necessary law been amended? Considering that citizenship by registration required 10 years residence, had there been requests to obtain Zimbabwean citizenship by some refugees and how many had done so? What were the fields of expertise in which some of the refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo were allowed to engage in wage-earning work? Could the State party comment on reports of the forced return of refugees?
The Committee was aware of reports that indicated several areas in which migrants faced challenges in enjoying their basic rights. This included undocumented migrants reportedly placed in detention facilities with convicted criminals, often for prolonged periods and in poor material conditions, and reports that female migrants faced sexual violence and rape by government authorities in detention facilities. Could the delegation share its assessment of these issues? Was it aware of such challenges, and was it taking any measures to address them?
Mr. Yuen said there were reportedly some 300,000 people in Zimbabwe who ran the risk of statelessness. People who were stateless were unable to work, establish a bank account, purchase a home, start a business or form legally recognised marriages. How did persons who lacked identity documents satisfy the conditions imposed by the Constitution to ensure they were duly recognised as citizens of Zimbabwe by birth? Would an affidavit sworn by a person concerned regarding their own status be considered as sufficient proof? Had any efforts been undertaken to raise awareness among persons who qualified for citizenship by birth under the Constitution? Were they informed that the fee for regularisation of their citizenship was $40 as opposed to the $5,000 citizenship registration fee?
Had the Citizenship Act been amended to be in tune with the decision of the Constitutional Court, including with respect to allowing for dual nationality? What steps had the State party taken to ensure that the provisions in the Constitution that could help prevent statelessness were reflected in legislation and were effectively implemented? Had measures been taken to facilitate access to national documentation for minority groups in Zimbabwe? At the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees High Level Segment on Statelessness in October 2019, Zimbabwe made several commitments to address statelessness. Could an update on progress towards these commitments be provided?
A Committee Expert noted that the head of delegation had mentioned that there was a legal framework protecting all sectors, and therefore one was not needed specifically for human rights defenders. Human rights defenders put their lives at risk to protect other citizens and could be prone to brutality, while helping States to abide by their treaty obligations. How was civil society consulted to put together the report; did Zimbabwe do this? Were there training programmes on the Convention for law enforcement? Would further measures be adopted to reduce cases of statelessness?
Another Committee Expert asked about Chinese companies, noting that the Labour Act stated that no employer should discriminate against any employee based on race. Had the State party heard about the discrimination of Black employees by Chinese employers? Was there a deadline for revising the citizenship laws?
GAY MCDOUGALL, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, emphasised the point about Black women workers being trapped in professional slots which limited their wages and meant they had none of the protections of the Labour Code in practice. Were there activities supported by the Government which allowed domestic workers to organise themselves, so they could have the power of a trade union and understand and exercise their rights? There was nothing in the Labour Code to cover informal workers. What was being done to elevate the position of the Black women who had to work?
A Committee Expert said that the minimum wage for domestic workers was lower than the minimum wage nationwide. Could the delegation confirm this and if so, what was being done to ensure that all workers were entitled to the same minimum wage? Was the State considering carrying out an overhaul of the legislation around domestic workers?
One Committee Expert asked if diplomatic missions in Harare paid taxes for domestic workers? Did private employers pay the taxes of the domestic workers who worked for them?
Responses by the Delegation
ZIYAMBI ZIYAMBI, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe and head of the delegation, said that since 2001, Zimbabwe had been operating under sanctions, which had affected the informal employment sector. For example, a transaction being completed in Zimbabwe would take several weeks as opposed to one day in neighbouring South Africa. This had slowed the economy and meant that the formal sector had closed over a number of years, and the informal sector had taken over as the main form of employment. Some of the traditional ways of doing business could not operate in Zimbabwe, as the State had needed to find ways to stay afloat. Mr. Ziyambi said people were not disaggregated by ethnic origin, but rather by province. There was no across-the-board minimum wage in Zimbabwe; this was instead defined by sector. No persons were being trafficked from rural areas for the purpose of being domestic workers in Zimbabwe.
The delegation said that the domestic sector was a private arrangement, which did result in some challenges. The Government had developed the Migrant Domestic Guidelines, which were given to Zimbabwean domestic workers who wanted to go and work abroad, to inform them of their rights. Labour offices operated in all provinces in the country, where domestic workers were permitted to lodge any complaints.
There was not a significant number of racially related cases which needed assistance, but indigenous people could access legal aid. The Government undertook advocacy meetings to targeted areas where indigenous people resided, instructing them about the Constitution, their rights, and remedies available. There was a budget to ensure this was reached across the country, particularly in remote areas. In Zimbabwe, the police recruited from each province, to ensure a spread across the country. This was not viewed through the lens of tribes, or language spoken, but rather where the new recruits came from.
Regarding human rights defenders, the laws were for general application and covered the role of all citizens. The moment that this started being segmented, it would become complicated. No non-governmental organization had been banned. The bill being drafted was to ensure that these organizations stuck to their mandate. There needed to be regulations to ensure control around this sector. The bill provided a lot of freedom and gave these organizations a chance to challenge decisions in courts if need be. The report was compiled with consultation from all stakeholders, including civil society.
The delegation said that there was a department for legal aid, and a lot of cases had been handled by this department. Magistrates drove into rural communities to conduct court hearings for those who could not easily access courts. Interpreters were present at every place a hearing was conducted.
Wherever there was major investment, there was a propensity of dispute, between the community and those investing in it. The dispute between Chinese companies was not an isolated incident; this had happened before with employers of other ethnic origins. Zimbabwe was a diverse country with diverse employers, and it did not serve the Committee to restrict this to a single race.
ZIYAMBI ZIYAMBI, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe and head of the delegation, said that the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission had no audience in parliament; the Minister was merely a conduit to tabling the results in parliament. The Ministry did not edit or do anything to the report, and this could be confirmed by the Commission.
Refugees were not allowed to engage in work-related activities for pay. If a refugee violated laws and attacked police officers, they were deported. Those who had been deported were criminals. Zimbabwe was in the process of amending its immigration and Citizenship Act. Those who were formally from the Southern African Development Community region had the right to citizenship. Mr. Ziyambi was unaware of anyone of Zimbabwean descent who had been denied a passport.
All those in Zimbabwe who came from other countries such as Malawi and Zambia had identity documents and could open bank accounts, but they could not register to vote. With the new Constitution, they could submit their identity documents and show they were from the Southern African Development Community and show that they were eligible to vote. However, there was a different category of refugees; those who ran away from the war in Mozambique. They wished to retain their roots and did not want to be recognised as Zimbabweans.
The delegation said that asylum seekers were assessed on their ability to be approved as a refugee before they entered Zimbabwe; there were currently over 15,000 refugee and asylum seekers in the country, however, this number was constantly fluctuating. All refugees were required to reside in one camp, to maintain order. There was an ongoing conversation regarding employment and refugees. There were opportunities for those who were skilled to be able to exercise their skills within the country, however, nothing had been concluded yet. It was unfortunately not part of Zimbabwean policy that refugees could be naturalised within Zimbabwean society as citizens. Instead, they were given the opportunity for repatriation or resettlement. They were given three months to decide, with the opportunity for an additional three-month extension.
It was not correct that domestic workers were required to follow the religion of their employer; however, out of respect they were expected to join in prayers. There was no issue if an employee wished to abstain from the prayers.
Questions by Committee Experts
VERNE ALBERTHA SHEPHERD, Committee Chairperson, said the Committee wanted to understand the people who made up the population of Zimbabwe, whether some were empowered, and whether some were not, even if this was based on class, as often happened in post-colonialism societies.
GAY MCDOUGALL, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said regions were still a proxy for understanding what was going on in the country. Could a list of all sectors and their minimum wage be provided? What complaints about discrimination had been received in the Labour offices in each province? It was welcome that there had been decentralisation of the court system; could statistics around discrimination cases handled by courts in all regions and provinces be provided? Was it true about the Chinese companies? It was odd that the Zimbabwean Human Rights Commission had not accompanied the delegation to Geneva. The Committee valued input from non-governmental organizations which explained a lot about discrimination in the country.
A Committee Expert addressed the head of the delegation, stating that they came from a Latin American region which was hazardous for human rights defenders; more than 300 had been murdered last year. This was a tangible problem, and the United Nations had a Special Rapporteur on the rights of human rights defenders. Several countries had specific laws for protecting human rights defenders, including Mexico. This was not a privilege but a means of protecting people’s rights. The Expert called on Zimbabwe to consider having a specific instrument to defend human rights defenders.
YEUNG SIK YUEN, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member, said there needed to be follow up to clear up legislation around dual nationality, including the Citizenship Act.
A Committee Expert said the head of delegation had used expressions which hurt sensitivities, including referring to migrants and refugees as criminals. A person was innocent until proven guilty. Zimbabwe had raised the issue of how one could distinguish between citizens and non-citizens. Zimbabwe should give non-governmental organizations an opportunity to take cases to court and be protected.
Responses by the Delegation
ZIYAMBI ZIYAMBI, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe and head of the delegation, said data could be provided in terms of class rather than ethnicity. Discrimination cases in terms of class could also be provided. Zimbabwe funded the Human Rights Institution, and Mr. Ziyambi disagreed it should be funded elsewhere. There needed to be regulation; national institutions could not be dependent on foreign funding. When someone committed an offence in a refugee camp, they were deported. It was believed they were not in the country for a good purpose. Mr. Ziyambi had been referring to criminals who had gone through the court process.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert noted the violations of the human rights of workers by Chinese companies. There was a misunderstanding on the focus of the question; for the Committee it did not matter what nationality the company was, instead the Committee was focused on instances which may amount to cases of racial discrimination for workers. The Expert said that in light of international legal standards, it was highly problematic to say that if a crime was carried out, the person would be deported. It depended on the gravity of the crime. How many cases had there been involving people who had been deported because of crimes committed?
Another Committee Expert asked about the complaints which had been committed against the Chinese company and what the complaints were against the many others?
One Committee Expert was concerned about civil society and how it related to the Convention. Could the delegation comment on the 1984 Act? What was the situation of statelessness and could official figures be provided?
GAY MCDOUGALL, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for travelling to Geneva and entering into a dialogue with the Committee. The Committee was looking forward to additional responses within the next 48 hours which would be taken into account. The Committee was glad to have Zimbabwe back after 20 years and hoped this would continue on a regular basis.
ZIYAMBI ZIYAMBI, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe and head of the delegation, thanked the Chair and the Committee for their valuable engagement. Mr. Ziyambi congratulated the Committee for its important work in fighting racial discrimination around the world, and Zimbabwe was committed to playing a part in this noble endeavour. The Government was ready to continue cooperating with the esteemed Committee and would implement recommendations which arose from the review.
VERENE ALBERTHA SHEPHERD, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation, the Country Rapporteur, and the Taskforce members, saying it was obvious a lot of work had been put into preparation. All the questions were intended to move things along in terms of eliminating racial discrimination from the world. Ms. Shepherd hoped that all the responses would be received within 48 hours and wished those travelling back to Zimbabwe a safe journey.