‘We don’t eat empty promises’… teachers down tools over ‘incapacitation’
By Kenneth Nyangani/Vanessa Gonye/Gary Mthombeni | NewsDay |
Workers yesterday accused government of making empty promises on improved wages and conditions of service for “too many years”, as teachers declared “incapacitation” again.
With schools opening for the second term today, teachers said they could not afford to go to work.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general Japhet Moyo told NewsDay yesterday that unlike in the good old days when salary increases were announced on May Day, workers were now living on false promises from government and employers.
On Sunday, the country commemorated Workers Day, which is celebrated globally on May 1.
ZCTU held celebrations at 20 centres across the country, with the main celebrations being held at Chemhanza Stadium in Dzivarasekwa, Harare, where Public Service minister Paul Mavima was the guest of honour.
“They only speak without taking action. They promised free education, free healthcare, free electricity, but those promises have not been fulfilled. Trade unionists have been criminalised and whenever workers try to demonstrate, they are arrested. Workers are not politicians, but they will be demonstrating for their tummies,” Moyo said.
“We are happy that Mavima graced our celebrations because previously, the government would send junior officials.”
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said: “As teachers, we have never been treated well by the government, which has never fulfilled its promises. We are now going into the second term and our children are being chased away from school despite government promises to pay fees for them. We have written twice to the government over the payment of school fees for teachers’ children, but they (authorities) have responded saying they are on it.”
Last term, teachers and headmasters failed to report for duty claiming incapacitation. Government responded by suspending more than 50 000 educators.
The teachers are demanding to be paid the pre-October 2018 salary of US$540 per month as the economy wobbles under raging inflation, which has eroded incomes.
“The issue of assistance for three children of a teacher with school fees amounting to $20 000 each per term is long overdue as we are entering the second term without any fruition,” Takavafira Zhou, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president said yesterday.
“The earlier government deposits the money, which has now accumulated to $40 000 per child (for two terms), into teachers’ accounts the better.”
Zhou said teachers also wanted a rescue package that would enable them to report for work as the average teachers’ salary of $18 000 was grossly insufficient.
Educators Union of Zimbabwe president Tafadzwa Munodawafa said: “Workers in Zimbabwe, especially teachers, have for a couple of years been doing nothing more than community service.
“They have been offering their services for free and employers seem not to care. Paying workers in local currency is a mockery considering that all goods and services are being sold in US dollars. This comes at a time when the exchange rate is spiralling out of control.”
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro, however, said everything was in place for schools opening, adding that there were no indications that teachers would fail to report for duty.
“Yes, we are ready to open and it’s all systems go. A lot of teachers are already at their work stations,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) raised concerns over the persecution of workers and labour rights activists by authorities for advocating for improved salaries.
“The authorities routinely arrest workers and union leaders for protesting for better wages and improved working conditions in violation of workers’ rights to freedom to demonstrate and petition, which is enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” ZLHR said in a statement.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enock Dongo said if government continued to fail to honour its promises to workers, there would be widespread resistance.
“The situation is getting out of hand. We urge the government not to frog jump in terms of the workers’ welfare, otherwise it risks resistance. The workers’ salaries have been eroded by inflation too much. It is painful to expect someone to live on US$60 per month. We are tired of false promises and want action now as workers have lost patience,” Dongo said.
Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union president Robert Chiduku said: “There was nothing to celebrate on Sunday and what we see is only betrayal by the government. We foresee a major brain drain, especially in the nursing profession, which has been birthed by the prevailing economic crisis and fake promises by the employer.”