Govt sabotage teachers' march

HARARE - Teachers have accused government of sabotaging their march after some headmasters were reportedly directed to hold compulsory meetings with teachers yesterday afternoon to deter them from protesting over poor working conditions.

Led by the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, (PTUZ) the country’s educators had hoped to smoothly petition government after they were given the green light by police to picket at their employer’s offices as well as at Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas).

While the teachers managed to march to the ministries of Finance and Public Service, only a handful of them participated amid claims by PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe that a directive had been issued by government to school heads to ensure that they keep their teachers busy.

Addressing the marchers, Majongwe called on them to furnish him with names of headmasters who were behind this.

“These overzealous characters must be named and shamed, please furnish us with their names and addresses as we may need to visit them in our numbers one day so please give us those rogue characters’ details.”

Majongwe told the placard waving, agitated educators that despite the attempts to stop them, their mission had been a “remarkable success”.

“We have made our point, we have achieved what we wanted; that is to communicate our displeasure with our working conditions and we hope they will take heed because from here we are going back to our stations from where we will decide what action to take next week,” Majongwe said.

While Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Sekai Nzenza’s office accepted the petition the same could not be said of her Finance counterpart Mthuli Ncube as officials in the ministry fled their offices when the teachers headed there singing, dancing and chanting anti-government slogans.

In the end the teachers had no one to hand the petition as there were only security guards present — a development that betrayed government’s unwillingness to entertain them.

“They all left the offices the moment they heard you singing outside so there is no one to give your paper to,” one of the security guards told the PTUZ delegation that had been sent in with a team of journalists in tour.

Police had allowed the teachers to convene at Africa Unity Square before a small number marched to petition Psmas and government offices.

“You shall convene at Africa Unity Square where from there you shall march in a small number of at least 10 people to Psmas through George Silundika into Fourth Street to Mkwati Building via Central Avenue,” the letter reads in part.

In an interview with the Daily News after the march Majongwe said he was happy with the way Psmas and Nzenza’s office had received them.

“We are particularly happy with the Public Service and Psmas because they gave us their ear. That is what we wanted. Whether they agree with what we are saying or not is neither here nor there because in the first instance we want them to hear our concerns.

“It is unfortunate what those at the Finance ministry did because it does not help anyone including themselves,” he lamented.

Some of the placards waved by the teachers denigrated the Apex Council — the body that represents all civil servants in salary negotiations which refused to act in solidarity with PTUZ saying civil servants wanted to give dialogue a chance.

“Who are you representing Apex? Teachers are suffering, who is Apex?” were some of the messages inscribed on the placards.

The PTUZ action came after Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavima recently told hundreds of primary school heads in Victoria Falls that government has no capacity to meet the teachers’ pay increment demands presently.

This did not go down well with teachers’ unions that felt the minister had jumped the gun as teachers are not employed by his ministry but the Public Service Commission.

Government has since invited civil service unions for a meeting on Wednesday next week.

The country’s educators and other government employees have been demanding that the employer pays their salaries in US$ amid concerns that their earnings have been eroded to worthless levels owing to the plummeting value of bond notes, a surrogate currency introduced by government in 2016.

The teachers also want their employer to review their salaries upwards to above the poverty datum line they estimate is now over $800.


 

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