Concern over rise in Child Labour

Chris Mahove

Concern has been raised over the use of Child Labour by A2 sugar cane farmers in Chiredzi amid revelations a parliamentary committee tour of the area revealed there are more than 300 children employed in the sugar estates.

The Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Human Rights, which made a visit to Mkwasine in Chiredzi discovered that approximately 300 children were working in sugar cane fields.

The Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) said in its weekly report last week that cases of Child Labour continued to increase in the country despite a myriad of legal, regulatory, and institutional frameworks put in place by government to curb the practice.

ZIMCODD said a survey they conducted revealed that the cases were more rampant in Mkwasine Estates, where majority of producers are A2 farmers.

“A rapid survey conducted by ZIMCODD in Mkwasine discovered that many children see marriage as an escape route out of poverty. Ironically, rather than the marriage institution to provide safe sanctuary for children, child marriage has become a haven of child vending, child labour, poverty, misery, and unhappiness,” ZIMCODD said in the report.

The coalition noted that normalization of children working as vendors, field workers and other informal occupations was a clear manifestation of government’s failure to provide effective child protection services.

“The local department of Social Welfare has been accused of giving a blind eye to this act of gross human rights abuse that has proliferated unchecked .It is believed that the increase in child labour has been fuelled by a rise in child marriage. Children in child headed households have themselves been waylaid into early child marriages for lack of care and support,”

Sugar Milling and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe (SMAWUZ) General Secretary, Nelson Muzamani said the union said they had since received a report and were now conducting their own investigations into the matter.

“We got such reports recently and we are conducting a survey now. We wanted to arrange an awareness campaign over this and if need be, reports will be made to the relevant authorities. The ZIMCODD report is correct; the practice is mainly practised by A2 farmers around the Estate, in particular Mkwasine. Tongaat Hullet is not at all involved in such practice as all their employees are above 18 years old,” he said.

ZIMCODD said the issue of Child Labour correlated with drug and alcohol abuse among the youths.

“It is critical now more than ever for the government to note the positive correlation between child labour, drug abuse and its policies of austerity which have taken away crucial care and support services for young people and impeded the optimum development of Zimbabwe’s human capital base.

“If Zimbabwe is to attain vision 2030 and the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) priority area which focuses on Human Capital Development and Innovation, it must re-orient it`s policy approach,” ZIMCODD said.

Among Young People in African Region states that, Zimbabwe has the highest number of 15 to 19-yearolds in Africa who engage in heavy “episodic drinking”, at 70.7% among males and 55.5%5 among females.

Some of the life-destroying and even lethal drugs stated in the report include, mbanje (marijuana), crystal methamphetamine (also known as, “mutoriro”, “dombo”, or “guka”), also ganja cakes, BronCleer cough syrup (bronco), and illicit alcohol popularly called “musombodhiya”.

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