By Alois Vinga
PRESSURE is mounting from teachers’ unions across the continent for the immediate release the arrested Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) members arrested early this week during a flash demonstration.
In a solidarity statement, the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), Secretary General, Skolola Dlamini condemned the arbitrary arrest of Orbert Masaraure, the President of ARTUZ and 15 other teachers arguing the comrades were exercising their right to peacefully demonstrate as enshrined under Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
“We the teachers call for their unconditional release. Zimbabwe is a state party to the 1966 International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly. At regional level Zimbabwe is a state party to the 1981 African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and Article 11 provides for the rights of peaceful assembly. Under section 58 of the 2013 constitution of Zimbabwe, everyone has the right to freedom of assembly,” Dlamini said.
The union reminded the Zimbabwean government that under Section 59, everyone has the right to peacefully demonstrate and to present petitions.
The Lesotho Teachers Trade Union also noted with greatest concern the arrest of members of the teachers’ leadership and harassment of teachers who are members of ARTUZ when exercising their democratic right to protest openly.
“On behalf of our members and the broader teaching we call upon the government of Zimbabwe to respect democratic rights of its citizens in general and teachers in particular,” said the union.
Other groupings which added their voice include Teachers Union of Malawi and the World Federation of Trade Unions.
Students also weighed in with the Ghana-based All Africa Students Union (AASU) secretary general, Peter Kwasi Koojie saying leaners drawn from all national student unions in 54 countries in Africa have a priceless relationship with teachers.
He said there can never be a teacher without a student and vice versa.
#The union said since government of Zimbabwe is a signatory to numerous international and regional treaties that underpin the right to demonstrate peacefully, it bound to honour its obligations by releasing the teachers.
“The country and the continent at large cannot go on flooding their prisons and detention centers with prisoners of conscience. We ask for calm heads to prevail and release and release all prisoners of conscience in Zimbabwe and the rest of the continent,” the union said.