HARARE – The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) and Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) are engaged in a war of words emanating from whether or not to engage in collective bargaining with their employer under the Apex Council — the umbrella body for all civil servants.
Zimbabwe has five main unions representing the interests of educators namely Zimta, PTUZ, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz), the Professional Educators’ Union of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe National Teachers’ Union.
In April, these unions came together to form the Federation of Zimbabwe Educators’ Unions (Fozeu) to up the ante in their push for improved working conditions for teachers outside the Apex Council.
But government has refused to recognise Fozeu, insisting all negotiations be done under the Apex Council.
Zimta and PTUZ, the two unions that control the bulk of the teachers, are divided over the position taken by government and are trading harsh words over this division.
Zimta chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu and PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe traded barbs in “defence of their integrity”.
Ndlovu said they are not fooled by caricature unions built on personal egos and whose ulterior motive is to perpetuate themselves at the expense of the profession.
e said PTUZ was formed to destabilise Zimta and has proven that it cannot be trusted to work with as an ally.
“Generally speaking, PTUZ is a caricature of a trade union and an instrument of destructive discourse that has seen it move around worker organisations in the country seeking to lead and when its rejected, it throws tantrums,” Ndlovu charged.
“It was formed not to foster teacher unity but to propel individuals who have clearly shown they cannot exist in democratic spaces. So, do not be fooled by their cheap antics.
“PTUZ is led by untrained personnel who masquerade as teachers and fear the presence of qualified teachers around them and will therefore go at length to destabilise the unity of teachers through deceptive falsehoods.”
Ndlovu said unlike PTUZ, Zimta is a well-grounded, principled and focused organisation that has been tested by time and has shown mature engagement with all splinter groups in the profession in search of teacher unity.
“Zimta has avoided cat fights introduced by PTUZ knowing they are cheap and distracting from real issues …We will not be drawn to discuss other unions for we do not believe in that narrative, but in this instance, we are forced to trade these blows in defence of our integrity.”
However, Majongwe said the singling out of two decorated leaders of the workers’ struggle and labelling them as “tricksters” was not only uncalled for but unfortunate.
Majongwe reminded Ndlovu that the Apex Council is a “bastard of slave trade mentality and an outdated Public Service Act whose harmonisation with the new Constitution is long overdue”.
“The government, buttressed by bootlickers like him, is obviously taking advantage and blocking Fozeu. Of all Zimta members, Ndlovu must know better,” Majongwe said.
Majongwe accused the Ndlovu-led Zimta of betraying the teachers’ struggle.
“Who doesn’t know that each time civil servants go on strike; the strike ends the very next day after Zimta joins?
“How many times have we been betrayed that way? Has the ink on the 10 percent salary increment dried? Ndlovu must not rub our undernourished fur the wrong way?”
Commenting on the allegations that PTUZ is led by untrained teachers, Majongwe said it is unfortunate that they are labelled this way considering that teachers under his union are doing a “sterling job in under-staffed secondary schools especially in critical subject areas such as Mathematics and Science.
“Sifiso (Ndlovu) is obviously out of touch with current affairs and the plight of suffering Zimbabweans in general. When the nation has been plunged into a national RTA disaster, a whole Zimta CEO has the time and energy to pick personal fights and the audacity to call himself Bolt Cutter?
“Where is your conscience … Ndlovu? If you were the first to call for USD salaries, from where then is the $1 700 bread basket nonsense coming?” Majongwe said.