Striking teachers continue 275km Mutare-Harare march

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By Leopold Munhende & William Milasi

TEACHERS from the country’s rural areas are continuing with their 275 km protests march from Mutare to Harare, demanding to be paid in United States dollars and reinstatement of their bonuses.

The march, which started on Sunday with around 40 people, is growing in numbers as it has been joined by members of the Unemployed Teachers’ Association, traditional unions such as the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).

Led by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union (ARTUZ), the marchers expect to reach the capital by December 19.

“Not even the inclement weather conditions will deter us in demanding our dues from government,” Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president Obert Masaraure told in Mutare as they started the march.

The educators, who have promised finance Minister Mthuli Ncube a showdown once they get to the capital, have vowed not to back down on their demands.

“Ours is a national cause and we are not going to stop demanding that which we know is good for the thousands of teachers who are suffering in this economic crisis,” said Masaraure.

“Some hospitals are now demanding payment in US dollars, filling stations too and government is demanding US dollars when importing cars, but teachers and the rest of the civil service are getting bond notes, we are also human and asking that we be treated in a humane way.

“They cannot tell us that they do not have money when we hear that they bought Range Rover Discoveries for themselves, we on the other hand do not want Range Rover Discoveries but want our sweat to be paid in a currency which can allow us to sustain our families.”

The marchers during a camp at Nyazura

In 2016, leaders of the union walked 200km from Mutawatawa in Maramba Pfungwe, Mashonaland East Province, to Harare demanding an improvement in the working conditions.

The educators were, at the time, stopped by law enforcement agents with part of the group arrested.

“This time we have notified the police of our attention to march,” said Masaraure.

“The teachers’ demands are clear; a restoration of our bonuses, payment of our salaries in United States dollars and an improvement of working conditions.”

He warned that schools would not re-open if government ignores their will then take place in January.

The march comes at a time doctors employed by government are also on a crippling strike, protesting the deterioration of the country’s health services sector.

The educators are accusing finance minister Mthuli Ncube as the architect of their problems.

“Teachers’ salaries have been eroded by a raft of both monetary and fiscal measures introduced by the authorities under the evil austerity crusade,” ARTUZ said in a statement.

“Teachers who used to earn around US$500 now earn US$120 which is further taxed, reducing the amount to around US$100.

“That amount cannot cover the minimum basic needs of human beings. The teachers will not report for duty in January if government chooses to dig in.”

The teachers were, on Wednesday, expecting to be camped in Rusape.

Speaking at their camp in Nyazura, Masaraure said their resolve had strengthened.

“The Cdes were visibly tired, some with minor injuries but still they are raring togo,” he said.

“The heavy rains pounding in Manicaland province are always a good sign which must send a signal to Mthuli Ncube, reform of face the wrath of the poor.”

He added; “The salary caravan has upset the natural order of expected conduct.

“The working class in Zimbabwe is ordinary viewed as disorganised and docile, that has changed and forever.

“Workers from across the country are pouring in solidarity messages and preparing to join the caravan.”