Fundamental Socio-Economic Rights under International, Regional and Zimbabwean Laws and Norms: “Know your Social Economic Rights”
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l want to thank you very much for inviting me to give a talk on social and economic rights and constitutional reform. We from LEDRIZ very much identify with the theme I have heard being constantly referred to here of- ‘Nothing for us without us.” LEDRIZ has been very much involved in research and advocacy work on socio-economic rights including labour rights, and the talk I will give today is based on some of that work.2 The necessities of life such as food, health, education, housing, basic public utilities (such as water, electricity and sanitation), transport and decent work are socio-economic rights, but this is seldom known by many. These rights are entrenched in international law instruments such as the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Charter among others. In South Africa they are enshrined in the Bill of Rights section of their constitution. Zimbabwe inherited from colonialism a dual and enclave economy with a developed and diversified formal economy co-existing alongside an underdeveloped peasant-based subsistence rural economy. The formal sector employed only 20% of the labour force, 17% of which were female, with the remaining 80% in the non-formal sector. Overtime with the collapse of the formal economy, starting with the adoption of neoliberal policies in the late 1980s under the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) and subsequently the near collapse of the economy after 2003, this dualism has deepened as the informal sector has expanded tremendously. Formal sector employment declined from 14% of the population in 1980 to 10% by 2004 and 6% by 2006. Now 4 out of 5 jobs are informalised. The levels of poverty increased from 55% of the population in 1995 to 72% by 2003 and an estimated 90% now. Today we face a near collapse of social services, health, education and welfare thereby denying the people their rights. Below I highlight some of the important socio-economic rights that every person is entitled to as recognized under international and regional laws.