By Leopold Munhende
GOVERNMENT has frozen the salaries of three leaders of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), who have now gone for four months without salaries.
The decision to stop the salaries comes after the three led a protests from Mutare to Harare early this year that culminated in the arrest of nine members before they were freed by a Magistrate in the capital.
ARTUZ president Obert Masaraure, secretary general Robson Chere and Mashonaland West chairperson Munyaradzi Ndawana led protests against Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube’s austerity policy in January.
“This so-called new dispensation is using every trick in the book to curtail trade unionism in Zimbabwe, the freezing of salaries is a desperate attempt to silence our membership.
“We will not be cowed into submission by such cowardly acts on an anti-worker establishment, we demand salaries in US dollars or market equivalent,” said Masaraure.
“Austerity measures are killing the working class and benefitting the ruling elite, we call upon the working class to rise and crush austerity.”
While other unions seem to have adopted a different tact choosing to negotiate with government, Masaraure and his group have taken the authorities head on.
Masaraure and nine others were initially arrested in Macheke and charged with criminal nuisance, appeared in court in Marondera before their case was referred to Harare. Before the group could appear in court they were again arrested in Ruwa just 40km outside the capital.
However the State failed to sustain its case forcing the courts to free the unionists.
Labour Minister Sekai Nzenza was not available for comment.
Added Masaraure: “We are surviving on handouts from well-wishers. It’s a difficult situation and cannot even afford paying school fees for our children.”
Schools opened on Tuesday amid reports that teachers could engage in industrial action over poor remuneration.
A meagre cushioning allowance from government was eroded by the prevailing hyperinflationary environment that has devalued their salaries.