Hivos Southern Africa Hub has been providing support to Alpha Media Holdings, a leading newspaper publisher in Zimbabwe, to conduct dialogues on critical issues facing Zimbabwe. Entitled “AMH Conversations”, the most recent dialogue tackled the contentious issue of labour law reform in Zimbabwe.
On July 17 2015, the Zimbabwe Supreme Court passed a ruling that allowed employers to terminate employment contracts on three months’ notice without severance packages.
Following the ruling, it is estimated that 22,000 workers lost their jobs on the three months’ notice termination. To stem the shake up to the labour market, the government initiated amendments to the Zimbabwean Labour Act (Chapter 28:01).
According to legal experts, the major changes on the Labour Law were made to Section 12 of the original Act, and in the process, removed the common law position that allowed the termination of contracts on three months’ notice.
The new labour regime has been a source of controversy with analysts saying that the drafting of the law was rather rushed.
There were fireworks at the AMH Conversation: “A Labour Law Regime to Stimulate Economic Growth,” which brought together representatives of trade unions, government officials and employees to discuss the recent amendments to Zimbabwe’s labour law. The discussion was also shared via Twitter with the hashtag #AMHLabour.
Vincent Kahiya, AMH’s Managing Director, said that the purpose of the AMH Conversations is to find solutions to some of Zimbabwe’s pressing problems.
“As Zimbabweans we love to talk about our problems but what it is more important is to find a solution,” said Kahiya.
One of the key discussants, International Labour Organization’s National Director, Ms Hopolang Phororo, said that government, employers and employees need more dialogues to find mutual solution to gaps that exist in the amended labour law.
“We need to look at the bigger picture. The fundamental issue is how to take the economy to the next level. The Labour Act has problems but we need to look at the picture. The root cause of where we are now is what we need to be talking about,” said ILO’s National Director, Ms Hopolang Phororo, adding that dialogue, trust and transparency will help to find solutions bedevilling the country.
A participant in the discussion accused government of passing laws that are inconsistent with its own policy statements.
“Government needs to decide who they are and what they are doing instead of passing schizophrenic policies that lack consistency. If we are going to stimulate economic growth government needs to stop being schizophrenic,” said the participant.
Another key discussant, Peter Mutasa, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union Vice President, said that politics was a major stumbling block.
“We need to address our toxic politics not just talk about new labour. We need to create more employment rather just preserve what is already there. We want reason, and maturity and not positional politics,” said Mutasa.
Overall, the conversation established the need for government, labour and employees to further engage in order to resolve labour law regime to ensure economic growth in Zimbabwe.