Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter—
Children under 18 years will no longer be eligible for employment under the proposed Labour Amendment Act as Government seeks to curb child exploitation by aligning the law to the new Constitution. Section 81 (1) of the new Constitution defines a child as every boy or girl under the age of 18 years. As such, the proposed amendments have raised the minimum age under which children can be employed even for apprenticeship.
Section 11 of the Labour Amendment Act that was gazetted last week states that: “This clause sets out the minimum age in which a young person may engage in work as 16 years in terms of the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01) and the Manpower Planning and Development Act (Chapter 28:02).
“Under the Children’s Act (5:06) and the Constitution, this clause sets out that a child is anyone under the age of 18 years, who is in need of protection from child labour, but nevertheless can perform work at school, technical or vocational institution that is part of a course.
“Furthermore encourages children to stay in school and delay their entry into formal employment.”
University of Zimbabwe law lecturer, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, said the proposed amendments meant that children below the age of 18 years could not be employed even as part of their training.
“Currently, the law says anyone who is 13 years and below cannot be employed in any capacity while those who are between 13 and 15 years can be employed as apprentice.
“It also states that those who are between 15 and 18 years can actually be employed as long as the job is not hazardous whether morally or health wise.
“However, the proposed amendments say anyone who is below 18 years can no longer be employed outside apprenticeship. They cannot be employed in any capacity.
“The only work they can do is through vocational or technical training. This brings a major change to child labour,” said Prof Madhuku.
Section 81 (1) (e) of the new Constitution says: “Every child, that is to say every boy and girl under the age of eighteen years, has the right — to be protected from economic and sexual exploitation, from child labour, and from maltreatment, neglect or any form of abuse.”
Zimbabwe has ratified all key regional and international instruments, which relate to the welfare and rights of children among them; the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 199 (No. 182) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children.