By Staff Reporter
A MASVINGO female teacher, Sheila Chisirimunhu (53) has been convicted and sentenced to 16 months in prison for public violence after she was arrested while protesting against poor salaries.
According to Amalgamated Rural Teacher Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president Obert Masaraure, Chisirimunhu is a primary school teacher who has served for 30 years and has five dependents.
“She is a primary school teacher who has served for 30 years. The government of Zimbabwe slashed teacher salaries from US$500 monthly to US$30. Sheila joined other teachers and peacefully protested against the illegal salary slash,” he said.
“Sheila was arrested and charged with public violence. No incidence of violence was ever reported during and after the protest. Sheila was ridiculously convicted for public violence.
“Her crime was asking for the restoration of her salary. Sheila was sentenced to 16 months in prison, sentencing was done a couple of days after the commemorations of 16 days of Gender Based Violence.”
Masaraure said Chisirimunhu will serve an effective 10 months in prison.
“Magistrate Mboniso Ndhlovu of Masvingo magistrates’ courts sentenced her to 10 months in prison for raising a placard. Raising a placard was deemed as public violence.
“A male counterpart who was jointly accused with her was freed. Both the conviction and sentence are an assault on freedom to petition duty bearers and labour justice. The government has curtailed the freedom of assembly and criminalised trade unionism. We demand Sheila’s freedom!”
Meanwhile, the imprisonment of Chisirimunhu has been condemned by political and human rights activists.
“This message from the ARTUZ president Obert Masaraure has touched me. The woman Sheila is a casualty of the regime’s weaponisation of the law to persecute people. #FreeSheila, failure of which we will call for a general strike,” wrote MDC deputy national chair Job Sikhala.
“Locking up a 53-year-old widow for $30 salary increase is shameful. Each month we pay President Emmerson Mnangagwa more than US$10 000 even though he is already a wealthy man from 40 years of looting. Sheila is a widow and breadwinner. If she dies in jail, they destroy a family,” said Jacob Ngarivhume, President of Transform Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean-born SABC news anchor Peter Ndoro wrote: “Mr. Nick Mangwana this can’t be true. A 53-year-old widow jailed for 16 months demanding a salary raise? Is President Mnangagwa aware this is going on in Zimbabwe? Surely, he doesn’t want the cries for a living wage to be deemed a criminal offence. Can he help #FreeSheila?”