Daggers out for ZIMTA

Chris Mahove

The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) is under fire from fellow-trade unions after it announced plans to compensate its members whose May salaries were docked by the Public Service Commission (PSC) for absenting themselves at the start of the second term citing incapacitation.

A memo to all members shared on WhatsApp groups stated; “Dear Colleagues- Can you please submit names per station of our members who have docked May salaries as your association wants to pay them back. Please may you please take this as a matter of urgency. Submit names to Beatrice,”

ZIMTA, however, got widespread condemnation from fellow trade unionists, who accused the teachers’ association of selling out the workers’ struggle by legitimising unlawful deductions by the employer.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) President, Takavifira Zhou, said ZIMTA had taken the decision because they knew their members did not suffer the deductions, adding it was “an issue of grandstanding and useless rhetoric”.

He said it was unfortunate that ZIMTA was legitimising unlawful deductions by the employer, adding the association could have been offered the money by the government for political expediency.

“The best way forward is to challenge the unlawful deductions because natural justice dictates that the principle of audi alteram partem is fundamental before a decision is taken against anyone. Therefore if the employer in its wisdom or lack of it, thought it has a case against the employees, due process was supposed to have been done, which is investigation, preference of charges, inviting each employee for a hearing, carrying out the hearing then  determination with reasons for the decision. This is our borne of contention against the government for now,” he said.

Zhou said the teachers’ argument was that failure to provide service for those days was as a result of action caused by the employer not to pay living wages, rendering performance of duties impossible.

“Each case must be heard individually than coming up with a rule of the thumb/blanket judgment/one- size-fit- all approach. Incapacitation is real and it’s foolhardy for the employer to pretend otherwise. Furthermore, this issue of applying no work, no pay principle must balance with the principle of no pay, no work because employees cannot be said to be having a salary if they cannot survive. It doesn’t make sense at all, it is clearly illogical,” he said.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) Secretary General, Obert Masaraure said ZIMTA was introducing some strange culture of trade unionism as ordinarily unions were expected to be pushing for reforms of the labour terrain to avoid the recurrence of the docking of salaries.

“Workers face multiple challenges as they confront brutal systems. The focus should never be to try and find comfort in the status quo but to push for radical transformation. We would have expected unions to fund concerted litigation and advocacy to put an end to such practices,” he said. 

Masaraure said government should be compelled to pay all the money they docked through litigation and advocacy, questioning where ZIMTA was getting the money to compensate its members.

Other trade unionists affiliated to the ZCTU, the erstwhile ZIMTA mother body, took to social media to echo similar sentiments, suggesting that they were being clandestinely bank-rolled by government.

“They have been working with government to try and destroy other militant unions. So government will simply pay them and then make its yellow union ZIMTA appear better than others. On this one they must be working with Mthuli Ncube, Mangudya etc.,” wrote one unionist

Another wrote; “Above all where is ZIMTA getting that money to refund all the teachers whose salaries were docked for participating in an incapacitation strike? With the huge number of affected teachers, including those who were not paid for the census exercises, which is far too much for ZIMTA to pay its members and others who will be lured by such nonsense,” said another trade unionist.

They said ZIMTA was desperate to win back some of its members who had defected to other teacher trade unions such as ARTUZ and PTUZ.

“They want their membership to increase so that if a strike is called it becomes ineffective because few will follow the call. The same happened at the ZCTU congress where some affiliates had their arrears cleared so they could attend congress,” wrote another.

ZIMTA Chief Executive Officer, Sifiso Ndlovu did not respond to questions sent to him, this after he had indicated that a call made to him was inaudible.

Some disgruntled members last year were pushing for the retirement of Ndlovu and accused him of amending the association’s constitution raising the retirement age from 60 years to 65 years.

A section of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) disgruntled membership is pushing the retirement of Sifiso Ndlovu amid concerns that he has amended the retirement age by adding five more years.

During the same year, hordes of teachers reportedly withdrew from the association after learning that he was earning in excess of US10 000 per month as salary.

ZIMTA is the biggest teachers’ union with more than 40 000 members.

Teachers’ unions have been demanding the restoration of their pre-October 2018 salaries that were pegged at USD$540 saying salaries in local currency were being eroded by inflation and rising prices of basic commodities and services, which were now pegged in USD.

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