BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO
GOVERNMENT has embarked on a witch-hunt, scrapping the recruitment of teachers as enumerators for the national census exercise as punishment for participating in a strike action when schools opened for the first term.
Teachers and other civil servants, including youths, have been undergoing training for the national enumeration exercise, the fifth since independence, which begins on April 21.
It emerged that teachers suspected of boycotting classes during a strike over poor salaries are being removed from taking part in the exercise.
This comes at a time when the Public Service Commission (PSC) was left fuming last week after provincial education directors (PEDs) failed to submit names of teachers who were on strike to pave way for their dismissal.
In a memorandum to PEDs dated April 13, director disciplinary services, Silas Nhenjana expressed concern that less than 10 names were submitted to the Salary Service Bureau (SSB) to freeze the teachers’ salaries.
“The commission has noted with concern that only nine of the 96 suspension orders of heads and deputy heads who were absent from duty from February 7 were processed by SSB. In view of this, you are requested to submit the names of suspended members indicating whether the suspension orders were distributed to SSB, if not give an explanation. This includes the names of teachers who continued to be away from duty beyond February 22,” Nhenjana wrote on behalf of the Primary and Secondary Education ministry secretary.
Nhenjana directed NewsDay to Primary and Secondary Education communications director Taungana Ndoro when contacted for comment.
Ndoro was not reachable while the Education minister Evelyn Ndlovu said: “I can’t comment on that. You should contact the PSC which is the employer. I can be taken to court for interfering with other people’s area of operation because I am not the employer.”
PSC acting secretary Walter Mpandawana confirmed the witch-hunt against teachers suspected to have gone on strike.
“It’s a common rule which applies to any employer. If you don’t work why should you get paid? You only get paid for services rendered. I don’t think even where you work they pay you if you don’t report for duty,” Mpandawana said.
The witch-hunt has extended to the census programme.
“We received reports for other provinces to the effect that some members who had been trained for the census programme were withdrawn on suspicion that they were on strike during the incapacitation period,” Zimbabwe Union of School Heads secretary- general Munyaradzi Majoni said.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said the witch-hunt was unacceptable.
“I have heard the same, but it’s a senseless exercise because receiving a charge doesn’t make one guilty. It’s a serious misreading of the law. It’s unacceptable vindictiveness on the part of government,”
According to unions more than 22 000 teachers and headmasters are currently being investigated for failing to report for work while 1 220 have been suspended since schools opened in February.
Teachers are demanding the pre-October 2018 salary of US$540, saying their local currency denominated wages had pushed them into deep poverty.