By Tatenda Chitagu
Masvingo district administrator (DA) Roy Hove has torched a storm after he reportedly ordered schools to recall pupils from holiday so that they provide entertainment during President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s visit next week.
Schools close today for the first term holidays.
Mnangagwa will be officiating at the installation of Chief Bere — believed to be his kinsman and relative — on Tuesday next week at Bere Secondary School in Mashava.
In a stamped letter dated April 8 and addressed to the district schools inspector, Masvingo assistant DA Nyaradzo Tongofa, who signed on behalf of her senior, said schools around Mashava should entertain the President.
“We kindly request for the schools around Mashava to provide entertainment for the installation of Chief Bere on April 16, 2019 at Bere Secondary School. We expect a huge crowd to attend and His Excellency the President ED Mnangagwa (will) grace the occasion. Your usual co-operation is greatly appreciated,” the letter read.
The move has, however, stirred a hornet’s nest, with both parents and a teachers’ unions saying the vacation should give students and underpaid teachers a rest.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union in Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure, whose union advocated for the “Safe Schools Campaign”, and successfully interdicted Zanu PF from abusing learners, teachers or using school properties at campaign rallies, said the move was improper.
“The primary vacation of children is not to entertain, but to learn. The installation of chiefs in Zimbabwe is highly partisan and inviting learners and teachers to such events will suck them into the toxic circles of partisan politics,” he said.
“Learners and teachers should be afforded time to rest during this holiday so that they get geared up for the next learning season. They could have opted for other entertainment groups elsewhere, not from closed schools.”
A woman, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said her daughter was supposed to immediately visit her father in Harare for the holidays, but the plan had to be disrupted as she would have to participate in the school choir set to sing for the President next week.
“My daughter has been rehearsing starting two days before closing and told to report to school after they have closed for more rehearsals ahead of the event next week. I have been prejudiced because she was supposed to visit her dad in Harare,” she said.
The appointment of Chief Bere, born Phinias Tafirei, as substantive chief was not without incident.
Some aggrieved members of the Bere clan accused the Local Government ministry of being in contempt of court because there was a High Court interdict.
Through their lawyer Raymond Moyo of Gill, Godlonton and Gerrans, they wrote to Local Government minister July Moyo, reminding him of the High Court order nullifying all those processes as being “irregular, unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void”.
The letter, dated August 9, 2018, was copied to Mnangagwa, Chief Chitanga, the Masvingo Chiefs’ Council provincial chairperson, and Attorney-General Prince Machaya.
“We attach hereto copy of the High Court order issued by Honourable Justice Phiri on October 24, 2017. In the circumstances, the purported appointment of Tafirei Phinias as substantive Chief Bere in unlawful and in contempt of an extant court order. Please kindly attend to the urgent reversal of this ‘appointment’,” part of the letter read.