Teachers for ED an indictment on unions

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Let us not deceive ourselves.

There are no teachers who suddenly had a “patriotism” epiphany — waking up one day, having fallen head over heals in love with Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and realising that he is a great leader after all, who deserved to be supported and appreciated.

No, not at all!

If those thousands of educators gathered in Harare last week, under the auspices of the so-called “Teachers for ED” are to be believed — then, there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Of course, no one can say with certainty that those in attendance were genuine teachers — as the ruling Zanu PF party is notorious for forcing people to attend rallies where its president will be officiating, and those could have easily been party youths, or other functionaries.

Nonetheless, it would be foolhardy for anyone to conclude that “Teachers for ED” is bereft of any following.

Why do we witness a group of apparently educated and enlightened educators opting to sell their souls to and sup with the devil — having no qualms at all associating and aligning themselves with a blood-thirsty regime that has callously authored not only their (teachers) miserable plight, but also the deplorable poverty and suffering of millions of ordinary Zimbabweans?

What is truly going on here  where, instead of fighting for better working and living conditions we find some who appear to have given up, and thrown their lot behind their oppressors in exchange for crumbs from the table of power?

Are these men and women, whom we have entrusted to impart knowledge and inculcate life skills in our children, the unmitigated dimwits that they may seem at first glance?

Anyone who thinks along those lines is the true dimwit.

No one can deny that Zimbabweans are, and have been, facing intolerable economic hardships for far too long and, have been desperately awaiting a “messiah” to rescue them from this hellhole, and lead them to the land of milk and honey.

Nevertheless, such a “saviour” has been disturbingly elusive.

Let us look at teachers themselves.

They have understandably placed their hope and faith in their unions to be their Moses — to take them to the “promised land” where they will be paid wages which are commensurate with their stature and honour as our teachers.

Yet, what has the nation observed in utter disbelief and dismay is that our teachers’ unions have been afflicted by deep divisions that have effectively rendered them ineffectual, useless and toothless bulldogs.

In spite of the regular noises, mostly confined to the media space, there has hardly been anything of substance noticeable on the ground that exerts pressure on the authorities — thereby, giving them sleepless nights, forcing seriousness on their part in heeding teachers’ demands.

We have witnessed threat after threat of collective job action but, with seldom any visible active mobilisation on the ground, with leaders leading from the front.

Instead, we have had megaphone leaders — who prefer merely issuing statements and holding endless meetings, without any discernible force to buttress their revolutionary actions.

Except for a handful of union leaders who are prepared to lead from the front, and ready to face the brutal response of the ruling establishment. They have been arrested numerous times for their bold activism, languished in prison as repeatedly denied bail, and even subjected to barbaric violent attacks. Basically, teachers’ leaders have been a docile lot, rather choosing a cautious approach.

However, the cautious approach has never moved an arrogant and repressive regime — in fact it plays into its hands.

Very few labour leaders — most of whom are living comfortably on donor funding — are prepared to lose that good life simply for the sake of fulfilling what they are mandated and paid to do.

No successful revolutions have ever been waged from the comfort of one’s home, office or hotel (the favourite venue for most activists, for meetings and workshops).

Revolutions are conducted in the trenches, fraught with risks and dangers.

If one is an activist under an oppressive and brutal regime such as Zimbabwe, but feels safe and comfortable — then they are not doing what they are expected to do.

That leaves thousands of their constituents wallowing in destitution, with no one coming to their aid.

Enter Teachers for ED!

There is absolutely nothing shocking seeing thousands of deprived and impoverished teachers jumping into bed with the same people who orchestrated their misery because they are feeling helpless and hopeless, with the only light shining from their oppressors.

Ironic, yes — but, perfectly understandable when individuals have reached rock bottom in their suffering.

It would not matter who offers a starving person that desperately needed morsel even if it is the one who caused his hunger, in the first place such an offer will be gratefully received.

I am sure that is what is referred to as the Stockholm syndrome.

There comes a time when those fighting for their rights get to a place of hopelessness such that they end up taking whatever is on offer, even if it means selling one’s soul to the devil.

Indeed, I know how that feels – especially, for someone like myself, who lives in lack, since I do not get any donor assistance. In my poverty it becomes easy — in the midst of what appears to be a lost cause — to ask myself, “surely, what am I suffering for?”

That is why we witness those who appear to have sold the struggle out. They would have reached a point of despair, suffering for a cause that does not seem to be yielding anything — thereby, giving up or accepting the little that is on offer even from those we are fighting.

As such, before attacking the rank and file of Teachers for ED — who were driven by desperation and despair — we need to ask ourselves, “for how long were they expected to wallow in poverty, while those entrusted with advocating for their cause live large.

Is that not the reason most ordinary Zimbabweans are unwilling to take to the streets to courageously call out our ruthless leaders for the good of the generality for the citizenry.

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