Teacher unions accuse govt of divide and rule tactics

Phillipa Jaja

Teacher representative unions have accused the government of employing divide and rule tactics to alienate rural teachers from those in urban areas.

This comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week commissioned 18 Public Service Commission (PSC) buses for rural employees under the Civil Service Rural Transport Scheme, which seeks to ease transport challenges faced by rural-based civil servants by providing them with reliable transport.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Dr Takavafira Zhou was sceptical of the motive behind the move, saying that it was part of government’s diversionary tactics meant to foreshadow the pressing issues being faced by public servants.

“In my humble opinion, as a teacher’s representative, I do not see how they benefit the general public servant as there are more pressing issues such as insufficient salaries, better working conditions and even the payment of fees for children belonging to teachers which has not been addressed.”

He said this reflects the lack of engagement with relevant stakeholders crucial in making decisions and policies peculiar to them.

“When looking at labour relations there should be engagement with stakeholders so that immediate priorities are addressed. The government should do away with these political expediency tactics meant to garner populist support whilst ignoring the civil worker’s plight.

Those buses will not benefit most rural servants anyway as there is no defined distinct route for them. Furthermore, we have seen from previous experience that they are not dusty road worthy and therefore cannot ease the transport woes of a majority of workers.”

The PTUZ president said they will continue to lobby the government for beneficial public workers centred policies.

“We are still lobbying for further negotiation for social dialogue with the government which is crucial towards improving the terms and conditions of civil workers.”

Amalgamated  Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president ObertMasaraure said although the buses helped ease the lives of rural public servants, they should be availed to everyone in view of the transport crisis facing the nation.

“Zimbabwe faces a serious public transport crisis.  The crisis has to be holistically tackled to make life easy for all citizens. The idea of students buses, civil servants buses etc is not a panacea. All citizens should access efficient Public transport. Outside going to work Civil servants still have to travel.”

He further called on the government to address the outstanding salaries issue whilst castigating the ruling party’s creation of alternative civil workers bodies that align with the party’s ideals.

“Government should address the salary Crisis for all Civil servants to enhance efficiency in the Civil Service. The ruling ZANU PF should also stop politicising Civil Service. Civil should remain impartial servicing citizens from all political parties.  Creation of multiple Civil servants bodies for ED, eg Teachers4ED is against the spirit of Section 200 of the constitution.”

Government workers currently take home USD$175 in Covid-19 and cost of living adjustment allowances and around Z$30,000 per month.

The Zimbabwe dollar has slid from around 210 to about 637 against the United States dollar since February, wiping off the value of salaries.

Runaway price increases have exacerbated workers’ despair.

In July, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) said it was failing to calculate the family food basket due to regular price increases of basic goods and services.

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