BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
HUNDREDS of teachers are set to appear before disciplinary hearings this week for failing to report for duty when schools opened for the first term this year.
This follows other punishments meted out on the educators, which include salary deductions under a no-work-no-pay policy.
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro confirmed the disciplinary hearings.
“The hearings are fair and procedural because those who are appearing refused to admit that they did not report for duty. So they are being afforded an opportunity to defend themselves and explain why they did not report for duty. We continue engaging teachers on various other issues affecting the sector, but the responsible ministry will deal with the salary issue,” he said.
But teachers described the hearings as an onslaught by the employer on workers who were exercising their democratic right to demonstrate, and a bid to muzzle them from speaking out against injustices.
Zimbabwe National Teachers Union chief executive Manuel Nyawo said the union was concerned about the way the hearings were being conducted without following the necessary procedure.
“We have received numerous complaints from our members who have been summoned to hearings. What boggles the mind and worries us most is the suspicious nature that the hearings are being conducted,” he said.
“Our members have already had money deducted from their salaries without explanation and even before hearings were conducted. The audi alterus partem principle of law denotes that both sides be heard first before a determination or ruling is made, and we wonder where the decision to cut these salaries came from before our members were heard on an impartial platform.
“It is sad that our members’ cases have already been determined before hearings were conducted and that to us is criminalisation of the justice system as well as the law of procedural fairness in so far as labour dictates are
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said it had received numerous complaints from its members who had been summoned for the hearings and the union was yet to ascertain the number of teachers affected.
Zimbabwe National Union of School Heads secretary-general Munyaradzi Majoni said although government had not yet set hearing dates for the accused school heads, the majority of them had received letters from the Primary and Secondary Education ministry notifying them of the charges levelled against them.
“Government came up with fictitious charges, where our members are being charged for failing to report for duty. A significant number of them are on suspension awaiting the hearing,” he said.
Amalgamated Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) president Obert Masaraure insisted that government should pay teachers a “living wage” to address the salary impasse.
“We are witnessing union bashing of unprecedented proportions. The government wants to bastardise unionism by punishing teachers for participating in lawful trade union activities. It intends to discourage members from joining trade unions of choice and weaken the voice of the unions,” he
“The government further seeks to strain the unions financially as they battle to fund legal costs. The freedom of association and assembly of the working class is being threatened. Artuz calls upon government to stop harassing teachers and pay a living wage.”
Former Primary and Secondary Education minister David Coltart said the situation affecting the education sector had reached a “catastrophic level”.
“Whatever the law says on the issues affecting teachers, it will not solve the issue at hand. The best solution is for the minister to engage the teachers unions to strategise the way forward. Teachers are paid slave wages, messengers and domestic workers are earning more than the teachers. We need dialogue for the best interest of the children,” he said.
“Going to court will not solve the crisis that the education sector is in. We should shout at roof tops that the education sector is in a catastrophic state.”
Teachers are still fighting for their pre-October 2018 US$540 salaries or the equivalent in local currency at the interbank rate.
Last week, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe announced that the family basket is now pegged at $120 000 per month, at a time when teachers earn around $45 000.
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