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PTUZ fights for political relevance

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Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe (RM) says he is not interested in forming a political party yet as he has other major things to achieve at the PTUZ and in his private life.

Veneranda Langa

The following are excerpts of an interview with NewsDay Senior Parliamentary Reporter Veneranda Langa (ND) on issues to do with workers and politics.

ND: The PTUZ is known for being very aggressive when it comes to dealing with issues of workers. Is that kind of approach going to continue now that elections are over?
RM: The truth is that the PTUZ is a very political organisation in that we fight for political relevance to address political
socio-economic ills in our country without any apology. Trade unions are there to create a better life, welfare and better salaries for citizens and how else are we going to do that if we do not engage or confront politicians. Our decisions are informed by political reality.

ND: Your recent statements after the elections sounded as if you were happy the MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai lost to Zanu PF. Is there any bad blood now?
RM: We just made a statement that we were congratulating the party that was made a victor by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The truth of the matter is, this is a political reality and we were never going to say congratulations to anyone else. Whether we like it or not President Robert Mugabe is now President and life has to go on as we cannot be in election mode forever. There is no bad blood between me and Tsvangirai. I respect the man and I am one of the few people who met and spoke to him and I gave a lot of unsolicited advice to the MDC-T which was rejected as they were not interested in what we were saying.

ND: Are there any chances of working together now that the elections are over and how do you see the future of MDC-T?
RM: The MDC-T did not show us respect. During the 2008 elections teachers and civil servants assisted the MDC-T because they wanted change. After the elections they did not go back to the same people to ask what they had not done in 2008 that they could improve. They went into the 2013 elections casually and forgot that the Zanu PF military machine was out there in the country campaigning. They forgot that in 2008 it was a protest vote, but Zanu PF had introduced indigenisation, community share ownership schemes, they had destroyed their structures of violence and had apologised to the people. They went to churches like Vapostori sect which has one of the biggest followings in Zimbabwe and also engaged trade unions.

The MDC-T failed to make themselves a relevant political entity, especially the attitude of some of their ministers in particular Lucia Matibenga. There was no strategic thinking and there are too many young people — lawyers in the party.

They associated themselves with non-existent NGOs (non-governmental organisations) on the ground and their campaign material in 2013 had no depth while Zanu PF had re-branded and strengthened its resolve. My prediction is that Mugabe will stand again in 2018 and Harare and Bulawayo are under threat. I pray we do not have MPs dying because if there are any by-elections we will see the MDC-T losing more seats. This election was never going to be won through the internet by concentrating on characters like Baba Jukwa.

ND: Are there any chances that you will re-engage with the ZCTU led by Japhet Moyo so that there is one strong workers’ union in Zimbabwe?
RM: We tried to engage them in several ways and even used mediators, but they refused. They kept saying we lost during an election which was illegitimate. They created a fictitious voters’ roll and after winning the elections they told us to go to the courts. This is where our problem with the MDC-T came from. However, the same thing has happened to them as they were cheated and they are now being told to go to court. We have, however, decided to move forward and we have plans underway to have a new labour centre whose name I cannot give now. It is an unstoppable process and we remain tall and resilient.

ND: You took sides with the National Constitutional Assembly during the
constitution-making process. Are you happy with how the new Constitution deals with the issue of teachers?
RM: I have qualms with Section 203 of the Constitution because the issue of collective bargaining is not included. It gives the President powers to appoint public service commissioners. We also wanted a teaching services commission, but it is not there

ND: How do you want teachers to be treated by the new government?
RM: There is need to be cognisant they have suffered for a long time. We want monetary and non-monetary incentives, for example land for teachers’ houses and vehicle loans with importation being duty free. We want security for teachers so that they are not harassed along political lines. Schools should be politically free zones. The plight of rural teachers, female teachers as well as disabled teachers should be looked at. We also want a sober minister and not mavericks or madmen like Aenaes Chigwedere. David Coltart was level-headed and we want to believe from Mugabe’s arsenal he has people to pick.

ND: You are said to have political ambitions and there is rumour you want to form a political party?
RM: NCA (National Constitutional Assembly) chairperson Lovemore Madhuku came out to say he was forming a political party, but I have not said that. I am only 42 years old and why would I rush to form a political party now? At 42 years I do not have a house or property and there are things I have to get right first before I realise my political potential. If the time comes for me to declare political interests, I will do so and no one will stop me. I am still with the PTUZ and we have not yet completed our task. People say I do not want to go, but Mugabe has been there since 1977 (when he formally took over as Zanu leader in Mozambique) and I started participating in PTUZ in 1997.

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