Teachers union expresses concern ahead of elections

Tuesday, 09 July 2013  SW Radio Africa

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) has expressed concern about the safety of its members as the country heads towards elections, warning that teachers have in the past been targets of politically motivated violence.

Zimbabwe's elections are set for July 31st, after the Constitutional Court last week dismissed all attempts to have the poll delayed.

This leaves just over three weeks until the elections are held, and according to the PTUZ secretary general Raymond Majongwe, the "political temperature has gone up so much."

The PTUZ claims seven teachers affiliated to the union died during the June 2008 polls and more than 60 other members were victims of harassment, intimidation and torture. Those elections also resulted in sores of rural teachers taking refuge in urban areas as well as in neighboring countries such as South Africa and Botswana.

"The real challenge we face is that history of elections has witnessed displacement of teachers, violence against teachers, harassment, brutality, arson attacks and all sorts of negative," Majongwe told SW Radio Africa

He explained that despite repeated calls over the past four years for schools to be 'peace zones', teachers are already feeling threatened by incidents of alleged politically motivated threats.

This includes the disruption of some schools during the ZANU PF primary elections, as well as reported threats against MDC-T affiliated teachers in Mashonaland Central, East and West.

"Year in year out we have demanded that politics be kicked out of schools, and that hasn't been respected. We believe that the political temperature will keep rising even after the elections, and teachers are feeling intimidated by what is happening already," Majongwe said.

Schools meanwhile will be closing early (July 26th) to accommodate the July 31st elections. Education Minister David Coltart said in a statement last week that the early closure of schools would enable teachers to participate in the national exercise as polling officers.

Minister Coltart said in order to compensate for this early closure, the third term would begin on September 3rd instead of September 10th, while the closing date for the third term remains December 5th.

The PTUZ's Majongwe meanwhile said that the early closure of schools, while potentially disruptive, was not as disruptive as the political environment the teachers find themselves in.

channelZim on twitter