GOVERNMENT’S treatment of its workers, specifically teachers, is proof of moronic leadership that has failed to appreciate how its own destructive policies have impacted the ordinary person.
Teachers have boycotted classes since schools opened last week to protest poor working conditions and salaries. Their arguments are reflective of the situation faced, not only by the larger public service, but workers in general.
Their strike has its roots in the failure by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to contain a runaway currency crisis that has evoked memories of the hyperinflation era of 2008.
Rising inflation and the local Zimbabwe dollar’s freefall against the United States dollar and the attendant cash shortages have left Zimbabweans facing regular price hikes with wages struggling to keep up.
As a result of the instability of the local currency, Zimbabwe’s economy has largely redollarised, but earnings have remained in the Zimdollar, while the US dollar is mostly accessed on the parallel market at more than twice the official exchange rate.
Last week, government announced a 20% salary increase, US$100 in hard currency from March converted from the local currency component, and pledged to pay tuition fees for three biological children of civil servants, among other non-monetary interventions.
The rest of the public workers have accepted the offer, but teachers refused, and are demanding the pre-October 2018 salary of US$540 or its equivalent in local currency.
This time, they were joined by headmasters, who have previously played the role of enforcer on behalf of government to force the teachers to comply with their employer’s directives.
Last week, recently appointed Primary and Secondary Education minister Evelyn Ndlovu suspended the educators for three months without pay, and they challenged the so-called suspension in court.
The move showed her naivety and inexperience, or she simply followed the precedent set by Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga, who once suspended the entire health workforce for striking, only to rescind the decision when it was clear that the move was not only ill-advised, but moronic.
Ndlovu is learning the hard way on the job and in the full public glare a lesson even her boss, Mnangagwa, has failed to grasp: that dialogue is a better way to solve misunderstandings.
So, Justice Fatima Chikapamambo Maxwell yesterday set aside the suspension of teachers by Ndlovu, declaring her action unconstitutional.
While the High Court was passing judgment on the matter, government was at it again threatening to expel all striking teachers and school heads who fail to report for duty by Tuesday next week, and replace them with college graduates and unemployed trained educators.
This stupidity by the authorities has gone on long enough, please sit down with the teachers and agree on an acceptable deal so the children can start learning again, and everybody wins.