Book Review:
A Guide to Labour Law in Zimbabwe
Authors: I. Machinagambi

Machinagambi, I. (2007). A Guide to Labour Law in Zimbabwe, Beta Printers/Machinagambi Publications, Harare

Reviewed by: Nyanga Takupiwa

This Zimbabwean produced book intended to provide both the legal and non-legal students studying labour law at higher learning institutions with practical and relevant information on labour law. It exposes the reader to a broad spectrum of labour law in Zimbabwe. It is intended for both the young and senior adults in higher learning centres and practitioners of labour law. It also provides useful information for the general industrial relations in Zimbabwe.

The writer made an effort to reach the reader by simplifying complex issues without diluting quality. The legal language has been simplified to pave way for the non legal students to master the concepts and be able to apply them in their daily endeavours. The text has made reference to various decided cases both within and outside Zimbabwe which is intended to keep the reader active, interested and have a Judicial thinking on the subject.

The text comprises of 12 chapters. The first chapter is a general introduction to Zimbabwean Labour Law that comprises of a brief historical outline, an introduction to, and explanation of the applicable legal rules and their sources. From the second to the seventh chapters the authors deals with the employment contract, citing the parties to the contract and explicitly outlining the concepts of Locatio Conductio Operarum and Lacatio Conductio Operis. The chapters proceed by discussing the essential elements and formation of a contract, types of employment contract and the variations of contractual terms. The text did well to discuss particular elements of the employment relationship such as employment conditions, employee and employer duties and remedies in cases of a breach. This is a very important element in Labour Law in the third world of which Zimbabwe belongs. It is also worthwhile to note that most labour disputes in the third world revolve around theses issues. These are the backbones of the management of labour. The text correctly cited relevant sections of the Zimbabwean Labour Acts and case laws, for example section 89 (2) (9) (11) and the case of Standard Chartered Bank of Zimbabwe Ltd v. L. Matsika - SC 156/97 on page 111 and 112. Chapter six rightly categorised the remedies to both the employer and the employee in cases of a breach. Most importantly the text made reference to the Zimbabwean legal instruments such as the Labour Act, Cap 28: 01, National Social Security Act and other supporting instruments. This equips the reader with both the theoretical and practical aspects of labour practices. It also familiarises the reader to the general framework of law that governs labour in Zimbabwe. However, the writer could have merged chapter five and six since remedies for a breach and termination of a contract are highly correlated and intertwined. Merging the two chapters could have enhanced the reader’s understanding of the concepts. Termination of contract may result from a breach and a breach may also result on the termination of a contract. This demonstrates how intertwined the two concepts are. Merging them could have gone a long way in enhancing students’ understanding.

The text attempts to empower the learners and the practitioners with insights into the Zimbabwean Labour Law provisions. This is quite commendable since it makes the reader a functional being. However, the text should have covered international labour practices so as to orient the reader with international labour law practices. Though the principal aim of the text is to cement Zimbabwean Labour into the readers an appreciation of international practices could have further enriched the users. The seventh and the fifth chapter could have also been merged since retrenchment is a component of termination of an employee’s contract. However the author is commended for extensively reading the Labour Act, Chapter 28: 01 and simplifying complex law issues on the subject of retrenchment.

Chapter eight, nine, ten and eleven deal with labour relations. The author effectively articulated both the employee and the employer organisations rightfully citing their terms of reference. Little ground was, however, covered on employer organisations. They could have also given some practical examples of existing worker and employer organisations such as Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU). Progressive Teachers Union in Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and others. The author managed to clearly point out the power relations within the labour relations system. The terms of reference of the two groups of organisations in collective bargaining were clearly spelt out. An outline of the structures for conflict resolution was given with the backing of practical examples and reference to the relevant legal instruments made. Chapter ten and eleven could have also been merged since collective Job election is an element of conflict settlement. However, the author made the concepts clear and interesting, which makes the reader remain focussed. Social legislation which is also known as the protectionist legislation which deals with the general conditions of employment and wages, occupational accidents, employee benefits were adequately covered. The concept of social legislation and its justification was fairly treated. An outline of the main pieces of social legislation and their importance was given. The author alluded to the need for the practitioners to be conversant with the compensation rights and procedures. It correctly cites National Social Security Authority (Accidents Prevention and Worker Compensation Scheme) - statutory instrument 68 of 1990. A lot of the provisions of the instrument are exhaustly explained. This is quite commendable.

The book also takes a holistic International Approach to Labour Law, which is much influenced by global trends and the changing patterns of the labour market. Though the author emphasized on Zimbabwean Labour Law, the concepts he raised apply to the international community as well. It is only the examples and cases cited that might differ.

The author clearly put across essential information about Labour Law and explicitly spelt out the procedures, important profiles to labour management and their obligations. Reference to the labour instruments empowered legal and non legal practitioners with the skills, techniques and procedures of dealing with labour issues in the management of Human Resources. The writer did well to italicise the case laws. The reader can easily refer to a particular case when faced with a problem in a particular area for instance on retrenchment (p. 125) Fungura and Anor vs. ZIMNAT Insurance.

It should also be noted that no single book can completely satisfy all readers and in this case there are instances when considerable inconsistency in style is visible. The other chapters begin with an introduction with an exception of chapter one. The introductory remarks have different styles with chapter two, three and seven having the longest introduction of close to a page. Though an attempt to reflect on preceding chapters is a noble one, the introductions are unnecessarily too long. The last chapter has a conclusion as the last item while in the other chapters, inconsistencies in writing style were also observed in numbering in which the symbols vary with chapters. In some instances the author used bullets, in others alphabets and in others roman numerals in numbering his points. While these are not enormous issues in themselves, better consistence would have improved the overall readability and accessibility of the text. One other weakness to note is that there is double emphasis on sub topics. The sub topics are in bold and underlined. The chapters could have been ended with exercises so as to give the reader the opportunity to reflect on the chapter.

Conclusively, the book meets its objective of contributing to the existing literature on the subject of labour law in Zimbabwe. The middle of the road approach that was used by the author made the text more relevant to both the legal and non legal students. Although it was written for students at various levels of operation such as colleges and universities, it is also very appropriate for lecturers, employers, employees and Human Resource Management practitioners. The employers and the employees usually misunderstand the subject of labour law, which has resulted in various forms of breach of contracts from both parties. This simplified version makes it easy for all the interested parties to understand and become conversant with labour issues in Zimbabwe and the world over.

Nyanga Takupiwa
Great Zimbabwe University


The Labour Act (chapter 28: 01), Harare, Government Printers.