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TUC Submission to IDC Inquiry into DFID Assistance to Zimbabwe

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date

International Development Committee

Inquiry into DFID Assistance to Zimbabwe

TUC Submission

  1. The TUC welcomes this opportunity to take part in the inquiry into the assistance provided to Zimbabwe by the Department for International Development, expresses its support for the current programmes and hopes that the UK Government and the international community will continue their assistance for the people of Zimbabwe in their efforts to overcome the current difficulties.T
  2. The TUC enjoys long-standing relations with the trade union movement in Zimbabwe, especially, with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions[1] (ZCTU) and appreciates the crucial role it plays in defending democracy, good governance and the rule of law under difficult circumstances. The ZCTU, having long been at the forefront of the campaign for social and political change in Zimbabwe, was instrumental in the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change[2] (MDC) in September 1999.
  3. The ZCTU has long borne the brunt of the Government's repression of democratic opposition. The Government of Zimbabwe ratified Convention 98 in 1998 and Convention 87 in 2003, but completely disregards its obligations to observe the workers' rights enshrined in them. Zimbabwe has attracted criticism from the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations on several occasions. In 2008, the ILO Governing Body set up a Commission of Inquiry to look into the complaints on the observance by Zimbabwe of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention (No. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (No 98).
  4. The TUC is currently assisting the ZCTU in its efforts to build capacity through two one-year initiatives -Women's Empowerment, Rights Awareness and Civic Education and Parliamentary and Advocacy work. This assistance is among the programmes financed from the TUC's Programme Partnership Arrangement (PPA) with DFID which expires in March 2011. In addition, the TUC has been instrumental in the development of purposeful relations between its UK affiliates and their sister unions in Zimbabwe through twining arrangements, which has led to a number of mutually beneficial initiatives.
  5. The Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) is working in partnership with the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Workers Union (ZARWU). A formal twinning agreement was signed in 2010. Amongst other things, this initiative aspires to build strong, sustainable links between members at all levels within both organisations. In addition to solidarity work it is also providing material support to ZARWU in terms of equipment, research, legal assistance etc. In particular, ZARWU faces many acute issues including low pay, high rates of HIV/AIDS amongst workers of the sector and the repression of union activities.
  6. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is working in solidarity with the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) in order to improve the conditions for journalists in Zimbabwe and to provide practical support to ultimately improve media freedom in the country. Zimbabwean journalists continue to face repression. NUJ branches are also being encouraged to get involved in the project to help solidify links between the two unions[3].
  7. We have also raised awareness of the crisis in Zimbabwe in the international trade union movement, especially, within International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and made it possible for Zimbabwean trade union colleagues to have their voice heard in a number of international fora such as the Commonwealth People's Forum in Trinidad and Tobago in November 2009.
  8. In addition, we have encouraged the development of a constructive relationship between the DFID and British Embassy and the trade union movement in Zimbabwe, notably, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and will be pleased to support further efforts in this regard. In our view, there is considerable scope for a mutually beneficially purposeful relationship to be developed which will be conducive to the achievement of DFID objectives in Zimbabwe.
  9. We are also working in close collaboration with civil society organisations like the Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) in order to raise awareness of the crisis in Zimbabwe among the general public and mobilise support.
  10. The TUC would like the IDC to bring to the attention of the DFID the need for regular consultation with the Zimbabwe trade union movement led by the ZCTU and its close associates, especially, the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) and the Labour, Economic Development and Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ), on all its interventions and for close collaboration with them in the design, implementation and monitoring of all assistance programmes. Moreover, we would like to see
    • the expansion of DFID action beyond humanitarian relief into more development-oriented interventions including the provision of technical advice and assistance where appropriate in collaboration with multi-lateral agencies and bilateral donors;
    • More resources being made available to improve the quality of essential public services, especially, health, education, water and sanitation;
    • More assistance to fill in the gaps in the national multi-sectoral plan on HIV/AIDS, especially, to address the needs of vulnerable marginalised groups in the prevention of the spread of the HIV/AIDS and treatment and care for PLWHA;
    • Closer DFID collaboration with the Government of Zimbabwe, the World Bank and the African Development Bank to explore the possibilities of contributing to a rural development fund to improve the welfare of the rural population:
    • DFID engagement with the Unity Government with a view to supporting its efforts to re-build the economy, improve the delivery of vital public services and restore the rule of law on receipt of credible assurances from the Government of Zimbabwe on its willingness to allow the free exercise of democratic rights of all its citizens.
    • Financial assistance for the implementation of clearly identified specific projects with discernible outcomes beneficial to the ordinary people of Zimbabwe.

Please, find below our views on the issues raised in the current consultation.

    • how DFID works with other donors, multilateral agencies and NGOs to deliver assistance

    11. The TUC appreciates the need to work in collaboration with other donors, multilateral agencies and NGOs and is in general agreement with the DFID approach in this regard. In line with its position on the harmonisation of policies and practices as set out in the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness, the TUC supports the channelling of assistance through the most appropriate, specialised UN agencies and NGOs in order to ensure efficient delivery and the achievement of desired outcomes.

    12. While we recognize the need for, and the effectiveness of, this strategy in the period prior to the formation of the Unity Government, we believe that there is now a need and scope for the expansion of DFID work in Zimbabwe beyond humanitarian relief and into more development-oriented interventions. We are concerned that the DFID does not appear to have any plans to provide technical advice and/or financial support in areas where, in our view, such assistance is mostly needed. Zimbabwe is in need of technical expertise on good governance, management of the key sectors of the economy, law enforcement etc. In the transition period, it is also necessary to foster the development of harmonious industrial relations through tripartite arrangements involving business, unions and government. Moreover, we think greater collaboration and consultation with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and its affiliates and the Labour, Economic Development and Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ) and the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA[4]) would assist DFID achieve its objectives. It is also important that the DFID, through its close collaboration with the trade union movement, enhances the effectiveness of its programmes and reaches out to the most vulnerable sections in society and ensures that other agencies follow suit.

    • DFID's contribution to the provision of humanitarian aid

    13. The TUC acknowledges the significant contribution made by the DFID to humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe and supports its continuity where necessary and appropriate. While recognising the need for channelling urgent humanitarian assistance through specialised international agencies such as the World Food Programme and NGOs, the TUC is of the view that the effectiveness of DFID interventions can be enhanced considerably through close collaboration with the trade union movement. With its membership spread across the entire informal economy, the ZCIEA is in a position to support, and enhance the impact of, DFID humanitarian action[5] targeted on vulnerable sections in society.

    14 Zimbabwe has a tradition of strong trade unions with membership in all sectors of the economy including the informal sector. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) brings them together under its stewardship and fulfils a vital role in representing the interests, and in addressing the concerns, of working people. The TUC recommends that the DFID and its partners develop a working relationship with the trade union movement in Zimbabwe in order to improve the effectiveness of their interventions. We should like to point out that the ZCTU and its affiliates played a key role in the successful distribution of sanitary products among Zimbabwean women in the Dignity! Period campaign[6] organised by Action for Southern Africa and supported by the British trade union movement.

    15 The inadequacies of the national health system and, especially, those of primary health care were acutely felt during the outbreak of cholera and point to the need for essential medicines and improved access to clean water and sanitation. We are aware that the bulk of DFID support is focused on the delivery of basic services, especially in the health sector. In our view, more resources are needed to improve the quality of essential public services, especially, health, education, water and sanitation. While welcoming the provision of school material for the children affected by HIV/AIDS, we understand that more support is needed in terms of training of teachers to improve the quality of education.

    16 The TUC is conscious of the difficulties of working with the Government of Zimbabwe. However, we believe that it is necessary to engage the Inclusive Government headed by the Prime Minister and support its efforts to improve essential public services. The TUC shares the ZCTU view that financial support should be limited to projects with clearly identified objectives and that the disbursement should be conditional upon the satisfactory assurance of proper use.

    • the impact of DFID's funding for health and HIV, and its support for orphans and vulnerable children;

    17 Given the severe shortage of health professionals partly due to the exodus of nurses and doctors, the DFID and other aid agencies should support training programmes for health professionals and explore ways of encouraging them to stay in the country through salary incentives[7].

    18 HIV/AIDS remains a serious public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa. In Zimbabwe, the situation has been further exacerbated due to the social, economic and political crisis. A number of donors including DFID and USAID have provided substantial assistance through a network of NGOs. Nevertheless, there are significant gaps which the DFID may be in a position to fill in.

    19 The DFID and other donors should consult, and collaborate with, the trade union movement to secure their cooperation in order to enhance the effectiveness of their interventions. The majority of the PLWHA, being of working age and, generally, in their prime of productivity[8], interventions through workplace initiatives are found to be particularly relevant, cost-effective and conducive to the protection of their employment and human rights. The unions in the health sector will be in a position to improve the quality of services and expedite their delivery to the people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).

    20 It is not clear whether the transport sector is included in the national multi-sectoral plan on HIV/AIDS despite its potentially critical role in the prevention of the pandemic in the country. The DFID and other donors need to include the transport sector in their programmes and work in close collaboration with the Zimbabwean affiliates of the International Transport Federation and enlist their support and co-operation.

    21 So far, the involvement of PLWHA has been minimal in the national prevention strategies in Zimbabwe. The DFID and other donors should use their influence to persuade the authorities to consult the organisations representing the interests of PLWHA in the design, implementation and monitoring of programmes.

    22 At present, due to the widespread prejudice in society, little attention has so far been paid to the need to prevent the spread of the pandemic among vulnerable groups - sex workers, intravenous drug users, prison inmates, gay and lesbian community etc. Donor agencies like the DFID should consider interventions targeted on vulnerable sections in society. The gender dimension of the pandemic, too, needs to be addressed, as women have to bear a disproportionately large share of the burden of care for PLWHA.

    23 While appreciating the need for targeted interventions for orphans and vulnerable children where appropriate, the TUC believes that the most effective way of ensuring their safety and welfare is through an integrated approach consisting in supporting the parents' and/or carers' efforts to look after them. The DFID should also consider, where appropriate and feasible, targeted programmes of psychological support for the affected children, perhaps, in collaboration with UNICEF and other agencies, as psycho-social needs have so far received little attention from the authorities in Zimbabwe. The DFID should continue its support for the multi-donor Programme for Orphans and Vulnerable Children through UNICEF and NGOs.

    24 We welcome more assistance to prevent the mother to child HIV transmission as an effective way of reducing the number of children infected with HIV. We also understand that the DFID is helping the Government of Zimbabwe to develop a national gender action plan and hope that both the DFID and the Zimbabwean authorities will consult and work with the trade union movement in Zimbabwe which has long been involved in the promotion of gender equality, The TUC commends the DFID support for community-based care for PLWHA and hopes that it will expand it further.

    • strategies for rural development;

    25 Zimbabwe continues to experience serious food shortages with harvests in recent years being particularly bad[9]. The development of the rural sector is pivotal to the country achieving self-sufficiency in food.

    26 Land reforms are integral to a long-term solution to the landlessness among workers and peasant farmers. The empowerment of peasants including rural women[10] cannot be achieved without comprehensive land reforms being put in place with a view to distributing suitable, cultivable land among the landless. The DFID and other agencies need to work closely with the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers' Union of Zimbabwe which has played a vital role[11] in the defence of employment and human rights of farm workers, especially, in the aftermath of President Mugabe's disastrous land reforms leading to farm invasions and destruction of farm workers' dwellings. Moreover, there are a number of other issues to be addressed in a viable rural development strategy.

    27 The economic and political crisis has taken a heavy toll of the rural sector, further impoverishing small-holder farmers and making it difficult for them to purchase seeds, fertilizers and other inputs[12]. Research and development has long been neglected while the extension services remain poorly resourced and do not seem to reach those most in need. Smallholders find it difficult to have access to high-yielding drought-resistant varieties of essential crops like maize and soya. The marketing of agricultural produce has been a problem in many parts of Zimbabwe partly due to the distortions introduced by the Government of Zimbabwe in a futile attempt to curb hyperinflation[13]. Farmers have in the past been forced to dispose of their produce at artificially reduced uncompetitive prices. There is a need for appropriate advice to be made available to farmers on the production, processing and marketing at village level. There is also a need for the provision of training in modern agricultural methods including the use of fertilizer and agricultural machinery and pest and disease control for rural farmers. It is also important that the farmers learn modern methods of storage and preservation of crops.

    28 Livestock farming has had many setbacks in the past few years. Some 90% of livestock farmers are said to be in dire need of financial assistance. The development of livestock faming will not only contribute significantly to the rural economy, but it will also help fulfil the nutritional needs in many rural households. Its potential for gainful employment for the rural population remains largely untapped. The development of livestock farming alongside suitable crops should be encouraged, as it will create more income-generating opportunities for rural households and provide a much needed impetus to the rural economy.

    29 The lack of affordable credit and crop insurance facilities has hampered rural development. Small holders have not been able to make the necessary improvements to their farms in order to increase productivity and enhance the nation's food security. Rural electrification needs to be given priority, as it will bring some of the modern comforts to the countryside. It is likely to be a potent catalyst in transforming the rural economy.

    30 The DFID and other donors need to collaborate with the Government of Zimbabwe, the World Bank and the African Development Bank to explore the possibilities of contributing to a rural development fund to address at least some of those issues.

    • prospects for a closer development relationship between DFID and the Government of Zimbabwe;

    31 Since the formation of the Unity Government, there has been some improvement in the economic and social conditions in the country. The TUC believes that the DFID should engage with the Unity Government with a view to supporting its efforts to re-build the economy, improve the delivery of vital public services and restore the rule of law. It is, however, imperative that the DFID secures credible assurances from the Government of Zimbabwe on its willingness to allow the free exercise of democratic rights of all its citizens. Moreover, it is necessary to ensure that DFID support is used exclusively for the implementation of clearly identified specific projects and not as general budget support. - a view shared and supported by the ZCTU and its affiliates.

    32 We also believe that the Government of Zimbabwe should be made aware of the possibility of the UK's role in mobilising further support from the European Union, USA and the international financial institutions for the successful implementation of any national recovery strategy which depends on substantial development assistance from external sources.

    • Zimbabwe's relations with its regional neighbours and their impact on economic recovery and development.

    33 The crisis in Zimbabwe has had repercussions on the relations with its neighbours, especially with South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. The exodus of some 2-3m economic refugees into the countries concerned has caused some problems, creating tension in areas where they seek employment and compete with the local population for essential services. The forcible deportation of refugees has added to the tension and led to occasional outbursts of anger.

    34 Some neighbouring countries with skills shortages have benefited from the exodus of teachers, nurses, doctors and other professionals from Zimbabwe. Some of the professionals who left Zimbabwe are likely to return home when conditions improve in the home country. The dollarization of the economy and the circulation of regional currencies have given a temporary boost to regional trade prospects. The imports from neighbouring countries, notably, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia have helped ease shortages of essential items.

    35 On the whole, the relations between Zimbabwe and its neighbours have been reasonably good and stood the test of time despite numerous vicissitudes. For the moment, there is no reason for any deterioration in the near future which could have an adverse impact on development prospects.

    [1] ZCTU is the national trade union centre in Zimbabwe, representing workers in all sectors of the economy. It currently has 35 affiliated unions (See Annex). The ZCTU is affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

    [2] Morgan Tsvangirai, President of the MDC and current Prime Minister, was the former General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

    [3] More information is available at:

    [4] ZCIEA was formed in 2002 with a view to protecting and promoting the rights and entitlements of workers in the informal sector, following the successful implementation of the Informal Economy Project by the ZCTU in collaboration with the former Commonwealth Trades Union Council (CTUC). For more information, visit

    [5] For instance, the ZCIEA could engage with the DFID on the empowerment of people with disabilities through its Disabled Desk.

    [6] Since the launch of the campaign in 2005, more than six million sanitary products have been distributed among women in Zimbabwe. See

    [7] DFID supports similar schemes in Malawi, see DFID Malawi Country Assistance Plan, para 131.

    [8] 'Over 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. Nine out of every ten are adults in their productive and reproductive prime.' Why AIDS is a workplace issue, ILOAIDS.

    [9] The national production of maize is said to have increased by 130% in 2009 relative to that in 2008, Special Report, FAO/WFP, Crop and Food Security Assessment, June 2009.

    [10] 'Rural women work 16 to 18 hours a day, spending at least 49% of their time on agricultural activities and about 25% on domestic activities', Role of Women in Agriculture, Factsheet, FAO,

    [11] The GAPWUZ is pressing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on land and agriculture to investigate the violations of farm workers' rights by the Mugabe regime.

    [12] See Rural Poverty in Zimbabwe,

    [13] The recent reforms have liberalised the market, resulting in the availability of food in local shops. However, the dollarization of the economy has meant that basic necessities still remain out of reach of many rural households.

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