Education International has received chilling reports about political retribution against teachers in Zimbabwe. This comes in the aftermath of general elections held on 30 March.
The House of Assembly elections were won by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), while the Senatorial elections were split between the opposition and the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party. The results of the Presidential election have not yet been announced.
Reliable information from Zimbabwe indicates that ZANU-PF activists are threatening teachers, accusing them of voting for the opposition. In some areas, teachers have been told to vacate their schools or to relocate, while others have been threatened with unspecified action. Most violence is being perpetrated by war veterans and the youth militia, known as “green bombers” because of their green uniforms and notorious ruthlessness.
In some parts of Zimbabwe, teachers have been accused of influencing the rural folk to ditch ZANU-PF and to vote for the opposition. Some teachers, who were acting as polling officers during the election, have been arrested or abducted by the feared Central Intelligent Organisation operatives. This is reminiscent of the 2000-02 election period when several teachers were beaten up, forced out of their schools, murdered and sexually molested by political thugs.
It is surprising that teachers are being accused of having voted for the opposition when thousands of them did not even vote in the first place because they were deliberately deployed outside their voting wards as polling officers. This calculated disenfranchisement of teachers is a violation of their constitutional right to elect their political leaders.
Violence against teachers comes at a time the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has failed to release presidential election results, even though almost two weeks have passed since the polling day. The opposition MDC says its leader, Morgan Tswangirai, won.
Education International strongly condemns the threats and violence being perpetrated against teachers and innocent citizens in Zimbabwe.
“We call upon the Zimbabwean authorities to respect human and trade union rights and to protect teachers,” said Fred van Leeuwen, the EI General Secretary. “This unfortunate development will worsen the brain drain in the education sector in Zimbabwe and bring the already crippled education system in the country to its knees.”