BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA/MOSES MATENGA
TEACHERS’ unions on Monday expressed fear of a clampdown to intimidate them against demanding better salaries after President Emmerson Mnangagwa accused them of pursuing a regime change agenda.
Mnangagwa said the unions were working in cahoots with the United Kingdom and the West in their plot to oust the Zanu PF government.
But teachers unions expressed concern that such utterances put the lives of educators at risk as the country gears for the 2023 elections.
They alleged that Mnangagwa might have been misinformed by his advisers, and challenged him to provide proof of teachers working with foreign powers.
The country’s elections have often been violent, especially towards opponents of the ruling party.
During a Monday media briefing in Harare, teachers demanded that a probe team be set up to look into the issue as it was likely to put their lives at risk.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said their only agenda was to fight for decent salaries.
“There is nothing like seeking regime change besides asking for teachers to be paid for invigilation, to be paid a specific salary or decent salary for them to live well as citizens in this country, that is all,” Ndlovu said.
“All we have done is to stick to the principles of asking the government to find a solution to make sure that teachers live decent lives, and all we are doing is within the confines of the law as provided for by the Constitution.”
Ndlovu said teachers were aware that their negotiations with the government would not easily yield positive results but they would soldier on.
“We are bracing ourselves for very tough negotiations. It won’t come out easily; we are not expecting it to come on a platter.
“We have done everything above board, we have been seeking to engage the ministers, the Public Service Commission, the President and that is all we have done,” he said.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said the statement by Mnangagwa was meant to justify a possible clampdown on leaders of teachers’ unions ahead of the 2023 elections.
“The issue of intimidation is there because you have people believing that it’s true. We are clear and we have never worked with the United Kingdom, we are simply representing the teachers.
“The problem we have in Zimbabwe is that we have people who deliberately lie to the President for personal reasons, but you cannot run a country through gossip and lies.
“We challenge those who have been peddling the falsehoods to provide the evidence so that we prove we have not been working with anyone. History will absolve us.
“The danger is that merely blaming us without providing evidence is an attempt to silence us on key issues that we have. It is a diversionary tactic where we are raising serious issues to do with the issue of salaries and invigilation, then someone raises an issue that you are working to remove the government so that you focus on sideshows away from the main issues.”
“We really believe that genuine leaders would strive to find the truth and not necessarily blame people who have not done anything wrong.
“We have not done anything wrong except representing our members.”
Teachers have been demanding a decent salary based on US$540 which they earned in October 2018 while the government has offered much less.
Teachers have declared incapacitation and have refused to invigilate the ongoing Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council examinations without payment.