2/21/08

Striking teachers declared enemies of the state

Zimbabwean teachers are increasingly being accused of whipping up hatred for President Robert Mugabe's regime, with government branding them enemies of the state. Authorities say their five-week strike in protest at poor remuneration caused by the regime's mismanagement is an opposition ploy to catalyse public anger against Mugabe.

Surrounded by pictures drawn by his pupils and wearing a bright cardigan, the deputy head teacher of a Harare primary school seems an unlikely enemy of the state.

But across Zimbabwe teachers are finding themselves the target of intimidation as the ruling Zanu (PF) party fights to cling to power. Newspapers have carried regular reports of teachers being beaten and threatened by activists who accuse them of encouraging support for the main opposition party, the MDC.

One secondary school teacher from Madziwa, north-east of Harare, told how 60 youths wearing Zanu (PF) t-shirts had beaten him with iron bars and whips. At least two other schools in Mashonaland suspended classes after raids by Zanu (PF) thugs.

The teachers' traditional position as polling agents during elections and educators of the disaffected young explains why Mugabe sees them as a threat.

The Mugabe government has sponsored a pliable teachers union to rally support for him, but many teachers would rather be aligned to the independent Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, headed by activist Raymond Majongwe.

Less threatening, but equally potent, are attempts to man the polling stations with Zanu (PF) sympathisers. The ruling party is doing everything in its power to create an atmosphere of fear.

A rural teacher said: "The majority of people - 99 per cent - are angry with the government. They have had enough of the corruption and the stealing, but the officials will do anything to keep their privileges.

"The teachers are not political. I have no card belonging to a political party. As teachers we only have an obligation to the truth and our students."

(thezimbabwean.co.uk)

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