BY VANESSA GONYE UNIVERSITY students, teachers and nurses have called for a national shutdown next Monday in a “fees must fall” protest and against the skyrocketing cost of living.
Teachers and nurses say they are failing to make ends meet, with their salaries having been battered by inflation while university students say new tuition fees are unaffordable.
In the private sector, there is also growing discontent with workers and their employers engaged in wage disputes, forcing some companies to pay a percentage of the wages in United States dollars.
Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) national spokesperson Lenon Mazuru said they wanted to register their discontent at the current state of affairs in the country by calling for a national shutdown.
“As the student fraternity, we are facing many challenges, we are saying the wages our parents are getting are not enough to cater for our fees. Policies which are in place are causing so much havoc, so much damage to the education sector. We need a lot of things which we are unable to afford,” Mazuru said.
“We are calling and inviting all other unions to support us on May 9. We need the government to address us and we need the crisis to end. This thing is way beyond ‘fees must fall’, hence everyone must take part. Every university, college, we are going to shut them down.”
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) and Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union (ZPNU) pledged full support for the shutdown, and urged their members to withdraw their services on the day.
Artuz president Obert Masaraure said: “We call upon teachers to completely withdraw their labour on May 9, 2022. Parents are urged to keep their children at home. The broader working class is urged to take heed of this call and demand a living wage from the bosses.”
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ZPNU leader Robert Chiduku said the economic crisis, which was causing untold suffering to workers and could not be ignored any longer.
“There is a labour crisis, economic crisis, political crisis, human rights violation crisis, healthcare crisis, leadership deficit crisis and some more other crises which have birthed challenges that have put workers within the cycles of poverty,” Chiduku said.
“The economic crisis should be solved and the currency crisis should be rectified for it is the workers who are feeling the pinch of the economic crisis.”
The planned shutdown comes days after Zanu PF national spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa disclosed that the ruling party bigwigs were having headaches over the currency crisis and price distortions.
In the past, the government has responded to protests by shutting down social media platforms, and deploying troops. In 2019, over a dozen civilians were killed during fuel price hike protests.
Yesterday, Health Services Board (HSB) chairperson Paulinus Sikhosana said he was not aware that nurses were planning to join the protests.
HSB spokesperson Tryfine Dzvukutu added: “That is news to me because it’s business as usual in all our health institutions.”
Higher and Tertiary Education minister Amon Murwira was not reachable for comment.
But permanent secretary in the ministry Fanuel Tagwira begged the university students against protesting the fee hikes before accusing Zinasu of harbouring a sinister political agenda.
“If institutions decrease fees, the reality is that there will be no quality education to talk of. Already, since the fee hikeS, there has been inflation and the fees they are paying now can only cover at least 70% of the institutions’ expenses,” Tagwira said.
“We would not want them to march. It is not the rest of the students intending to do that, but one particular group linked to a political party. Government understands their plight but there needs to be consideration on how the fees came to be.”
In March, police arrested a number of University of Zimbabwe students union for protesting against an increase in tuition fees.
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