Zimbabwe teachers’ strike gets off slowly as reprisals feared

Most teachers in Zimbabwe turned up for work, but some were not conducting lessons in adherence with the strike, witnesses said. (AFP)
Updated 05 February 2019

Zimbabwe teachers’ strike gets off slowly as reprisals feared

  • Zimbabwe has more than 100,000 public sector teachers
  • Government workers are demanding wage rises and payments in US dollars to cope with soaring inflation

HARARE: Some Zimbabwean teachers stayed at home while others went slow on the job as a strike at state schools got off to a patchy start amid fears of further intimidation by security forces who cracked down hard on last month’s protests.
Zimbabwe is grappling with an economic crisis marked by cash shortages and rising prices of basic goods after President Emmerson Mnangagwa hiked fuel costs 150 percent last month.
That brought demonstrations and looting, plus a brutal response from security agents, which rights groups say left 12 people dead. Police put the figure at three.
In schools near central Harare, most teachers appeared to have turned up for work, but some were not conducting lessons in adherence with the strike, witnesses said.
In a classroom at a primary school in Harare’s Mbare township, a Reuters photographer saw one teacher eating from her lunch box in the morning while pupils sat quietly.
She and the headmistress declined to be interviewed.
“Stay home, be safe. Don’t be intimidated by police and CIOs (Central Intelligence Organization),” the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), the biggest teachers’ union, said in a circular to members.
Zimbabwe has more than 100,000 public sector teachers.
The Bulawayo-based online news site, Center for Innovation and Technology, said teachers at several schools in the country’s second biggest city did not turn up for work and parents had to collect their children.
“Some teachers are in class but there is no meaningful teaching going on,” ZIMTA president Richard Gundane said.
Government workers are demanding wage rises and payments in US dollars to cope with soaring inflation and an economic crisis that has sapped supplies of fuel and medicines.
Many Zimbabweans, who have seen purchasing power eroded despite adopting the dollar in 2009, say Mnangagwa has not delivered on pre-election pledges to kick-start growth after the exit of Robert Mugabe in 2017.
Despite their demands for better pay, other public workers declined to join teachers on strike because they are fearful of the volatile security situation and want to continue negotiations with the government.
Economic hardships have seen the government allowing nurses to work just three days a week because they do not have enough money for bus fares, the nurses’ union said on Tuesday.
The government has pleaded with teachers’ unions to give talks a chance, saying children will be prejudiced.


Sweden arrests 2 more suspects in Denmark tax office blast

Updated 13 min 40 sec ago

Sweden arrests 2 more suspects in Denmark tax office blast

  • One of the suspects is being sought on an international arrest warrant
  • Authorities said they are confident they will catch the perpetrators

COPENHAGEN: Police in Denmark say their Swedish colleagues have arrested two more people in connection with an early morning explosion that damaged the headquarters of the Danish Tax Agency, slightly injuring a bystander.
The Copenhagen police say the arrest of the two men, aged 22 and 27, bring to three the number of people in custody. A fourth suspect is being sought on an international arrest warrant.
Investigator Brian Belling said in a statement Thursday that police are continuing their investigation, adding, “we are confident that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.”
Police did not immediately link the Aug. 6 tax agency blast to another one, four days later, at a nearby police station, though they said industrial explosives were used in both. No one was injured in the police station explosion.