HARARE – As government battles to contain growing civil unrest in the country, the nation’s biggest teachers’ union — the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) — says its members will go on strike with effect from today, due to the worsening local economic rot.
Zimta’s announcement yesterday was made as other unions also warned that they would embark on a nationwide strike at the lapse of their 14-day notice on Friday this week.
This comes after the government dangled a $300 million total incentive to its agitated workforce last week, which unions said translated to measly increments for their individual members.
On their part, civil servants have demanded to be paid a minimum of $1 700 a month — a figure which they say matches the current economic situation in the country.
“The situation remains the same and we remain incapacitated. Government has not done anything to address the plight of teachers.
“So come tomorrow, Monday (today) teachers will not report for work because they are incapacitated … that is the official position,” Zimta chief executive officer Sifiso Sibanda told the Daily News yesterday.
“We have totally rejected the offer that the government has made as it is insignificant and does not address our needs. The employer must understand that we are workers and we need to survive.
“Some of the teachers have to spend $10 per day on transport and that takes away all their earnings. It is the duty of the government to source for money to pay its employees,” Sibanda added.
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) also said its members were preparing to go on strike at the expiry of the two-week ultimatum which they gave to the government a fortnight ago.
“We had given government a 14-day ultimatum and that will lapse this Friday. Come Monday, we are definitely going to take action.
“What government is doing is simply fire-fighting. We don’t think they have a solution. Some of the issues being raised by teachers can be solved using nonmonetary means.
“Government is failing the teachers by coming up with micky-mouse improvements … There are some teachers who are going into retirement and they have nothing, which is worrying,” PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said.
“Government has several resources that it can use to gratify teachers. It can consider issues like tax exemption, exemption of school fees payment for teachers’ children and availing housing or farms for teachers.
“The problem is that government is not thinking outside the box. They should engage people with ideas that will proffer solutions to the teachers’ problems.
“Just like they dealt with the issue of land with war veterans, they can do the same to address the problems faced by teachers. There are also many teachers in mining or farming areas and they can benefit from those resources,” Majongwe added.
The Apex Council, which represents hundreds of thousands of civil servants across the public sector, is adamant that the government should pay its workers a minimum of $1 733 a month, or the equivalent in US dollars.
The civil servants are also not happy with the government’s decision to pay their bonuses on the basis of their basic salaries, as well as making them pay vehicle import duty in US dollars.
This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government have come under growing pressure to breathe life into the country’s sickly economy.
The current economic crisis was further underlined by last week’s deadly riots which broke out in Harare and other towns, as angry protesters flooded the streets in protest at the recent fuel price hikes.
More than 70 people were shot and injured by security forces when they used live ammunition during the riots which left 17 people needing life-saving surgeries, and at least 12 others dead.
The riots were sparked by Mnangagwa’s surprise decision to treble the prices of petrol and diesel ahead of his trips to Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile, and despite the sharp fuel price increases, the government has failed to end the fuel crisis as motorists and transporters are still spending endless hours queuing at dry garages.