By SIBANENGI DUBE
HARARE, (CAJ News) – PAID meagre salaries and sometimes going for weeks without payments, impoverished Zimbabwean teachers are ironically forced to fund the upcoming conference the cash-strapped Zanu-PF party of President Robert Mugabe is organising.
The broke liberation movement, which heads to the conference experiencing its worst divisions post-independence, intends to raise US$8 million to finance the explosive elective congress set to be held in the ancient town of Masvingo in December.
The congress is set to endorse Mugabe as the candidate for next year’s election. Amid factionalism, it is forecasted he could drop his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa as his running mate.
Ahead of the event, it is reported some district administrators and chiefs, acting on behalf of Mugabe’s party, are forcing teachers around the country to contribute $5 each towards the exercise.
Teachers who spoke to CAJ News this week said Zanu-PF “informal structures” made such “requests.”
Teachers’ unions this week reported their members had been given up to next week to contribute or risk victimisation or possible loss of employment.
The educators in the rural areas, which are seen as strongholds of Zanu-PF, are particularly targeted.
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) on Friday denounced the illicit fund-raising campaign by the beleaguered party.
“The greedy and parasitic grouping by the acronym, Zanu-PF has once again descended on rural teachers, especially in Mudzi district demanding cash contributions from teachers,” the union stated.
Mudzi, in the Mashonaland East Province, is more than 200 kilometres from the capital Harare.
The district is a Zanu-PF heartland that suffered deadly political violence after the disputed election in 2008. It also suffered a devastating outbreak of cholera coinciding with the period.
This week, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), threatened to “name and shame” school principals forcing teachers to contribute money for the ruling party’s congress.
PTUZ President, Takavafira Zhou, has sent out an alert urging teachers to forward names of the ‘extortionists.’
“We urge PTUZ members to forward names of school heads, District Staffing Officers and District Administrators and any other people who are forcing them to make contributions so that we can publicly name and shame these extortionists,” Zhou said in an exclusive interview with CAJ News.
The union leader also warned Zanu-PF to desist from the habit of coercing his members to contribute money towards party activities.
“We reiterate our long-held view that contributions to any party functions be it the president’s birthday, Heroes Day, conferences and congresses, must be voluntary and not mandatory,” Zhou said.
“In this vein there is no need for teachers to be forced to sponsor the forthcoming Zanu-PF Congress. PTUZ will not stop those who want to voluntarily contribute towards this congress, in as much as we are strongly opposed to the fleecing of poor teachers by real and bogus Zanu-PF functionaries.”
It has emerged a tradition in recent years for Mugabe’s party, which is not spared the biting economic crisis, to raise funds from impoverished civil servants, who sometimes go for weeks without payment. Teachers earn a maximum of $400.
Lillian Timvoes, a legislator in Zvishavane in the Midlands Province, said, distressed teachers in the region had been left with no option but to contribute in order to avoid harassment by Zanu-PF militia and reprisals by employers ad authorities.
“This is happening in broad daylight. Teachers have no option but to comply,” Timvoes said.
While they have not been asked for contributions, students have also previously fallen foul of violations by Mugabe’s party.
ZPP said it was also in possession of a list of teachers’ names from Munamba Primary School in Murehwa District who were forced to each contribute $1 towards preparations for the rallies.
The Zimbabwe Peace Project has previously raised concern at teachers and villagers forced to contribute to the so-called youth interface rallies Mugabe addressed recently.
The rights group alleged teachers and villagers were forced to contribute $1 each.
“It’s a violation of freedom of association to force people into contributing funds for and or attending events of a political party that they do not subscribe to,” ZPP stated.
Mugabe’s government has previously denied the accusations.
This week, Information Minister, Simon Khaya Moyo, could not respond, saying he was in a meeting.
– CAJ News
By SIBANENGI DUBE