The great betrayal

HARARE - As schools got down to business after opening yesterday, the future of dozens of farm children is in jeopardy — thanks to a land reform programme vaunted by its campaigners as Zimbabwe’s next best thing to the liberation struggle.

A female senior prison officer, Angela Chisora has ganged up with the ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement to cause the potential closure of a farm school using the government land reform as a basis.

Edwin Maseva, one of the few Zimbabwean teachers who have weathered a poor salary and treacherous living conditions is now before the courts — not as a State witness.

Chisora is pushing to have him jailed for insisting on staying at the farm school and continue doing his job as a teacher.

Maseva is one of the only three teachers who have been keeping Makumimavi Primary School open by offering their services.

Now they are being ordered to leave by Chisora, who got the farm under the land reform programme. She is pressing criminal charges against Maseva.

Maseva is facing criminal proceedings related to his continued occupation of a compound on the gazetted piece of land, which is “outlawed” in Section 3 (2) (a) as read with Section 3 (3) of the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act, (Chapter 20:28).

With the assistance of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Maseva is resisting attempts by Chisora to evict him from the compound reserved for teachers’ accommodation.

“His eviction will negatively impact on the right to education of over 100 children who learn at the farm school which only has three teachers, who use the same compound for accommodation purposes,” said Jeremiah Bamu of the ZLHR.

The action against Maseva directly affects more than 100 pupils — all juveniles, who are now at the risk of having no school come tomorrow.

It is like an own goal for those who tout the land reform as a panacea to the poverty deep-seated among Zimbabwe’s ordinary citizens.

And Chisora, who is the complainant in the case against Maseva, is not relenting.

She says she has since paid $1 200 as part of the deal to take over the farm, where Makumimavi Primary School is situated.

A plea by desperate parents to President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the ministries of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture and Lands and Rural Resettlement has yielded no fruit, as Chisora seems determined to get the teachers out of the school.

Only two weeks ago — on August 21 to be exact — Maseva was issued with summons to attend court on August 31 for “refusing” to leave a farm house he has been staying in while executing his official duties.

Maseva had been previously summoned to attend court in March but the summons were defective and these were quashed after the intervention of ZLHR.

ZLHR has intervened and is assisting Maseva to safeguard the right to education as enshrined in several regional and international treaties which Zimbabwe is party to.

The lawyers on August 31 raised a preliminary objection on why Maseva had been charged in his individual capacity when he derived his right to occupation through the ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture.

The Education ministry, the lawyers argue, is itself an organ of the State which does not require any offer letter, permit or lease within the contemplation of the Gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisions) Act.

After the arguments, the State subsequently withdrew its summons and indicated it would re-consider the persons to cite in the criminal proceedings although it insisted that Maseva would remain an accused.

The matter has been tentatively set for September 19. — Legal Monitor

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