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Higher Education Deputy Minister fired for stoking tribalism

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By Staff Reporter


Higher Education Deputy Minister, Simelisizwe Sibanda has been fired for discriminating against a Shona teacher deployed to the Matebeleland region.

In a statement issued this Monday, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Martin Rushwaya said President Emmerson Mnangagwa had relieved Sibanda of his duties, without elaborating on reasons for the dismissal.

“His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde Dr Emmerson D. Mnangagwa has, in terms of section 108 (1a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, removed Simelisizwe Sibanda from Office of Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development with immediate effect,” reads the statement.

Before Sibanda’s removal, the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) had demanded an apology from the deputy minister for unleashing hate speech and derogatory remarks against a female educator believed to be Shona.

He is said to have interrogated an Early Childhood Development (ECD) female teacher, Winnet Mharadze, about why she was teaching in Matabeleland when she has a Shona surname.

In the audio, Mharadze who appears petrified received a barrage of questions based on her ethnic identity.

The deputy minister reportedly gave Mharadze her marching orders, before ordering the school head to ensure that he facilitates her dismissal forthwith.

PTUZ president, Takavafira Zhou expressed shock at Sibanda’s uncouth behaviour.

 

“It is with utmost shock and disbelief that we have learnt of the rogue and thuggish behaviour of Bubi MP, Simelisizwe Sibanda, against an ECD female teacher, Winnet Mharadze, at Clonnmore Primary School on 24 June 2024.

“Fundamentally, Sibanda as a deputy minister must have professionally treated the teacher, rather than denigrating and dehumanising her in public. If the MP thought he had enough reasons to query the deployment of the teacher he could have raised the issue through his counterparts in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

“Worse still the MP seems to be ignorant of how teachers are transferred by his assumption that he or the head, Sifiso Buhlungu, has the power to summarily transfer a teacher in a manner reminiscent of the colonial master and servant scenario.

“As PTUZ, we want to reiterate that Zanu PF needs to reign on their rogue and errant MP who lacks educational taxonomy and professional ethics, and is a danger to society.”

The union said Sibanda acted “thuggish” and needs tutorials on professionalism and Ubuntu/Unhu.

“Zimbabweans need to celebrate their unity in diversity and we expect MPs and ministers to be flag bearers of this. We don’t expect them to behave like beasts. At any rate, the difference between human beings and other animals is their ability to reason in a rational manner. But when those we expect to be more reasonable by virtue of their positions in society behave like beasts, we wonder whether they have become dogs or dogs have become MPs and ministers.

“We also want to deflate the minister’s colonial binary and falsehood of the Shona and Ndebele. We have more than 20 languages in Zimbabwe and the reductionist perception of just the Shona and Ndebele must be thrown outside the window. It is dangerous to be parochial or harbour feelings of the locality against feelings of nationality. It is dangerous to look for Shona weaknesses or Ndebele weaknesses, etc, behind every rubbish bin in a school.

“We also want to remind the MP that he is certainly operating in unfamiliar terrain, and must forthwith never visit any school. A threat to any teacher anywhere is a threat to all teachers everywhere. We will not take the insult of Winnet Mharadze lightly and demand an unconditional apology as a matter of urgency.”