PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says there is need for Zambians to be practical in upholding and embracing principles that promote integrity and respect for human dignity in order to fight the challenges of forced labour.
President Lungu said this when he officially opened the regional conference on forced labour at Taj Pamodzi Hotel yesterday.
He said the challenges of forced labour needed consistent and concerted efforts as the task was still huge going by statistics obtaining especially among African countries.
“My government will consistently encourage the Zambian people to be practical in upholding and embracing principles that promote integrity, respect for human dignity to help address the continued challenges of forced labour. The challenges and realities presented by forced labour on our continent and particularly, within our region, cannot go unnoticed.
“In terms of prevalence, we can safely say at least four in every 1,000 people in Africa are in forced labour at any given time. Given this status quo, it is certainly time for us to do more and respond with extra effective measures to address this vice,” President Lungu said.
He noted that Zambia was vulnerable to human trafficking due to its geographical location as a land-linked country as it was being used as a transit route. President Lungu said women and children were mainly victims of forced labour as they were targets in human trafficking whose labour was needed in farms.
“Zambia is not isolated from this modern day slavery. Being a land-linked country and centrally located in southern Africa, Zambia has been used as a transit point and host to so many vulnerable victims of human trafficking, in particular, women and children. These victims have ended up in bondage as slave workers on farms and domestic workers in homes of their countrymen who came here earlier and legally settled in the country,” he said.
President Lungu noted that it was important for labour inspectors to have authority to enter freely any workplace liable to inspection, at any time and carry out inquiries freely and interrogate persons alone in the employer’s absence.
He also said workers and trade union organisations had a key role to play as the eyes of any labour administration regime to complement the inspectorate which is usually not adequate to visit all workplaces.
President Lungu said it was an obligation of a worker to bring to the attention of the competent authority any actions of forced labour as non-reporting of such actions could lead to increased exploitation and violation of fundamental rights of employees.
He said Zambia would promote the 2014 international labour protocol and recommendation number 203 as it called for effective measures to eliminate forced labour and the protection of victims.
“Being a signatory to the ILO convention on forced labour, it is our obligation as a country to welcome and promote the newly adopted ILO protocol and recommendation 203 to complement our efforts in eradicating forced labour. We have domesticated components of the forced labour convention in the Zambian labour laws and the Immigration Act which address compliance against forced labour and human trafficking.