Zimbabwe struggles continue
World Teachers' Day
NASUWT has produced classroom resource about Zimbabwe to mark World Teachers' Day on 5 October.
NASUWT attends PTUZ Annual Conference in Zimbabwe
The Union was privileged to be able to send two officials to attend the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) conference, held at the Belvedere Teachers' College in Harare. NASUWT Journalist Ben Padley and National Official for Equality and Training Jennifer Moses were honoured guests at the gathering, held despite threats and intimidation faced by some delegates.
Vigil for democracy outside the Zimbabwe Embassy
The NASUWT has a “moral and ethical duty” to continue to fight for justice and human rights in Zimbabwe, the Union’s Deputy General Secretary has insisted.
At a democracy vigil outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, Dr Patrick Roach said the campaign for human rights in the country was “as alive today as it has ever been.”
He was speaking as NASUWT members joined trade unionists, activists and members of the Zimbabwean community in the UK to protest against the brutal violence of President Robert Mugabe’s regime in the African country.
Around 50 protesters waving placards and singing protest songs voiced their strong opposition to the continuing violence and called for free elections.
The protest was held on the third anniversary of Zimbabwe’s “run off” election when Mugabe’s Zanu PF party ran a campaign of violence, including mass rape, in a desperate bid to retain power.
Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) presented more than 1,300 petition cards to the embassy and Dr Roach and others laid them outside the embassy with red roses, often used as a symbol of peaceful protest in Zimbabwe.
Dr Roach said: “The campaign for human rights, democracy and social justice is as alive today in Zimbabwe as it has ever been.
“The fact of the matter is as a result of the Mugabe regime thousands of ordinary people including trade unionists are being oppressed in Zimbabwe and any voice of opposition is being repressed.
“We have a moral duty and an ethical duty as a teaching trade union here in the UK to stand up for justice for Zimbabwean teachers and for Zimbabwean civil society.”
Nqobizitha Moyo, who came to the protest from the Midlands, taught agriculture in Zimbabwe before fleeing to the UK.
He explained some of the difficulties teachers face in the country: “I had to leave Zimbabwe because of the violence against teachers.
“The problems faced by the teaching profession in Zimbabwe include very low salaries, and violence…you couldn’t demonstrate freely because of the violence.
“When teaching you had to teach without any tools for the children, there were no spares because of the financial situation.
In sweltering heat the protesters sung songs calling for the removal of Robert Mugabe as well as chants demanding an end to violence by Zanu PF supporters, widely regarded as thugs controlled by the Mugabe apparatus.
After the symbolic laying of roses the protesters poignantly sang God Bless Africa before a final uplifting chant. Many of the Zimbabwean activists had come from cities as far afield as Exeter, Leicester and Nottingham, as well as across London.
Zimbabwe Teachers Face Fresh Political Violence
Reports from Harare at the start of November confirm that Zimbabwe's teachers are facing serious political threats and violent attacks.
The Progress Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president, Raymond Majongwe, told a press conference in Harare on Tuesday that his organisation had received reports of teachers being victimized since the day President Robert Mugabe announced that elections could take place next year.
Six teachers from Gwangwava Primary School in Rushinga were recently forcibly transferred to other schools in Bindura after war veterans and Zanu PF supporters said they did not want the teachers in their community.
According to Majongwe, PTUZ feared for the teachers' lives because the district education office in Bindura, working in cahoots with the war veterans, transferred the six to Zanu PF strongholds so that they could 'fix' them.
"We want to put on record as an organisation that the situation in and around schools is starting to disturb us," Majongwe said.
He said teachers were being victimised at a time when the GNU (Government of National Unity) was showing obvious signs of cracks. He said Zanu PF
supporters led by war veterans had threatened to cleanse the Mashonaland province of any members of the PTUZ."
"We don't need this. It is unnecessary and uncalled for," Majongwe said. "What we have is a serious challenge around the failure by government to
address teachers' salaries."
"This election that is coming will not solve any problems facing teachers, in fact the election will increase grave yards and orphans."
Majongwe said his organisation had written to Education minister, David Coltart to intervene. They were also planning to approach Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai so he can talk to President Robert Mugabe to convince his supporters to end the teachers' victimisation.
Dr Patrick Roach, Deputy General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:
“The NASUWT is deeply concerned by the continuing attacks on teachers in Zimbabwe. We stand in solidarity with the PTUZ in calling for these politically motivated attacks on teachers to stop now and the NASUWT has written to the Zimbabwe High Commission setting out our concerns and calling for immediate action to protect the safety of PTUZ members.”
Zimbabwe teachers, especially in rural areas, have over the years been the target of political violence by war veterans and Zanu PF supporters who accuse them of supporting the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The situation saw hordes of Zimbabwe's teachers running away to neighbouring countries like South Africa, Botswana and to countries overseas.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) has claimed that liberation war veterans in the country are forcing its members to join ZANU(PF) and to attend party meetings during working hours.
Takavafira Zhou of the militant union said he was shocked to learn that hundreds of teachers in Masvingo and Midlands provinces were being forced to pay USD25 or buy goats as punishment for late confirmation of their membership to the former ruling party. "We have learnt with shock that our members are being victimised by Zanu(PF) thugs for not joining the party. We have overwhelming evidence to prove the allegations", said Zhou.
Those found without party membership cards are severely punished and some forced to buy goats which are usually taken by the party heavyweights.
Schools in Bikita and Zaka districts in Masvingo are the most affected as war veterans leader and Zanu(PF) foot soldier Jabulani Sibanda together with Chief Nhema are forcing teachers to abandon lectures and attend political rallies.
"It's a shame that in some areas such as Zaka and Bikita, teachers are forced to leave schools to attend political rallies. Already their salaries are not enough and they are fined if they are found without party cards, Zhou told Radio VOP. RadioVOP was informed that teachers at Cheziya High School and Gombo Primary in Gokwe and Mabika areas in Mberengwa and some in Masvingo were affected.
Zhou promised to take the matter to the responsible ministers in government.
Meanwhile MDC supporters in Masvingo continue to live in fear as the campaign of intimidation by war veterans leader Sibanda rages on.Sibanda, a former Zipra cadre believed to be in Emmerson Munangagwa,s camp has been accused of spearheading a campaign of terror aimed at instilling fear among villagers there. He is reportedly working with chiefs in the province. Police have turned a blind eye to his activities as Sibanda is believed to have the backing of party heavyweights and the Big Man himself.
ZANU(PF) Masvingo provincial chairman Lovemore Matuke denied that teachers in the province were forced to join the party.He said they were joining 'willingly'. However when contacted for comment Provincial Education Director (PED) Ms Clara Dube said she needed more time to investigate the issue.
Head commits suicide
The head of Mukomberanwa Secondary School near Chaka Business Centre allegedly committed suicide after an intense conflict with parents over suspected abuse of money meant for teacher incentives.
The Programmes and Communications Officer of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Oswald Makomborero Madziva said: "While the union does not condone abuse of public funds, the eclipse of misery and deprivation in the teachers is driving them into the devil's workshop."
"This is just but one of the cases of the vertical and horizontal conflicts which teachers are experiencing in the schools. Schools have become a war zone between parents and teachers with corrupt school development committees and school heads lining their pockets.
"The PTUZ firmly believes in one war to end all wars - a decisive and issue laden strike action."
The death of the headmaster identified only as a Mr Mashamba was closely linked to a meeting which was convened by the School Development Committee and attended by parents, the local councillor and some police details. At the meeting parents were reported to have demanded a financial report on how the school used the money which parents paid for incentives for teachers.
It is alleged that teachers at the school were never paid incentives despite the $US10 termly contribution per child which parents paid towards school levies. Allegations were that Mashamba failed to give a satisfactory explanation and the bitter parents threatened to report the matter to the police.
A day after the meeting, Mashamba travelled to his rural home in Gutu where he allegedly took poison and died.
The PTUZ said it was saddened by this development which epitomises the union's year old argument that incentives will work against teachers.
Teachers in Zimbabwe, like most civil servants, are earning about US$160. They want this increased to US$600 a month.
NASUWT has provided considerable resource support for the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).
More than 5,000 teachers have been beaten, about 600 hospitalised and 231 teachers' houses burnt, the union says.
Raymond Majongwe, PTUZ secretary general, says the number of teachers being attacked is growing by the day and as a result the quality of education is suffering.
"The same teachers that are being pushed around and being beaten are no longer going to be giving their best," he said.
"They will be looking over their shoulder every other time to see who is present, who is coming and who is advancing," he said, describing their fear.
Zimbabwe's education system, once the envy of the region, has recorded its "worst year", he said.
"I think if education could be described as being in hospital, it would be in an intensive care unit," he said.
For the Zimbabwe Election Commission, the massive displacement of teachers could prove a headache ahead of the planned presidential run-off on 27 June.
Polling officers from different sectors will need to be recruited and trained.