By Tiden Makeke | In what could negatively affect the credibility of his party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) member, Edwin Dzambara, has attacked Zimbabwean teachers for asking for a salary increase.
Dzambara made the call despite the fact that the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has pegged the Poverty Datum Line (PDL) in Zimbabwe’s inflationary 2020 environment at +ZWL $ 58 000 or +US$580, teachers are currently earning ZWL $3500 or US$35 desp
Dzambara, who is the chairman of an MDC-T outfit called Defending Morgan Tsvangirai Legacy (DMTL), castigated teachers’ demand for a US$500 salary as “unreasonable and destructive.”
Critics sceptical of DMTL respectively accuse MDC-T Acting President and MDC-T Secretary General Thokozani Khupe and Douglas Mwonzora of going into bed with ZANU PF at a time when many MDC supporters expected the opposition to unite ahead of the oncoming December 5, 2020 by-elections.
Former University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Jonathan Moyo is one critic who described Mwonzora as one who has been in “the ZANU PF pocket for donkey years.”
While Kent University law lecturer, Alex Magaisa refers to Khupe’s party as the “judicially reconstructed MDC-T,” former Daily News editor, Pedzisayi Ruhanya, tweeted on last June’s seizure of the MDC Alliance headquarters (Harvest House) in Harare, saying, “Dear Mwonzora: It is neither a strategy nor a tactic to be assisted by the military, police, CIO and ZANU PF to takeover a building from your rivalries (sic). You have effectively confirmed that all along you have been working with the state and this effectively destroys your politics.”
Despite accusations of bedding ZANU PF, the MDC-T has ploughed on undeterred and Dzambara has resolutely maintained his stance.
“There are some Zimbabwe Teachers’ Unions which are politically motivated and lack progressive developmental mantra. The demand for a monthly US$500 + salary is unreasonable and destructive,” thundered a seemingly numb Dzambara in a clear reference to the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), Zimbabwe Teachers Union (ZIMTA) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).
“They don’t care how this can suffocate our meagre national coffers in an over populated economy. Tell them to leave the job and employ only Patriots,” added Dzambara.
The DMTL chairman went on to argue that “Teachers received free salary (sic) for 6 months during COVID period, since April, with COVID allowances in USD. They were resting home and no work was done. From 6 months resting and puffing at home, with full salaries to a strike when schools open, why didn’t they strike during the six months free pay period?
Teachers are not the only workers or civil servants. Besides, most workers in industries, mines, vending sites or farms did not get pay on COVID due to closure or downsizing, while others received cut salaries.”
To conclude his write-up that sounded like former Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe’s speech before the MDC was formed in 1999, Dzambara condemned the teachers saying, “this is very destructive unscrupulous and the intention is just to be confrontational for the purposes of politicking.… Let them know that we are all Zimbabweans and must not engage dirty tactics for political mileage. We buy from same shops all of us ordinary folks. Watch out your pace. Leave unions and join politics !!!”
Dzambara did not talk about the plight of teachers who according to PTUZ president, Raymond Majongwe, have pathetic salaries, poor housing no safety and are taken for granted. Majongwe added that the teachers’ job has “no security of tenure,” added to the fact that “teachers now can’t send their kids to any school.”
ZCTU Secretary General, Japhet Moyo, took aim at Dzambara’s statements saying “the teachers are demanding that the employer pays them what they were earning before the introduction of SI 142 of 2019. Prior to August 2018 the teachers were earning USD 520 while the PDL was pegged at +USD 580.”
Japhet denied that teachers were dabbling in politics but quipped rhetorically on what basis Dzambara was “making the conclusion that the USD 500 is destructive?”
Japhet’s comments dovetailed a statement made by ARTUZ. “We still demand our 2017 salaries, USD520,” demanded ARTUZ despite the fact that the demand was below the projected PDL at June 30, 2020 .
Like other civil servants, Zimbabwean teachers are operating in an environment in which economic indicators show a dwindling quality of life.
For example, the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee Food and Nutrition Security Report of March 2020 states that “the 2019 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) Rural Livelihoods Assessment (RLA) report projected that 59% of the rural population would be cereal insecure during the peak hunger period (January to March 2020). This food insecurity prevalence translated to a population of about 5.5 million rural people.”
The ZimVAC RLA report also noted that “there was need for urgent food distribution or cash based transfers (to promote the local economy where feasible) to food insecure households in order to avoid a worsening situation.”
The Ministry of Education has a workforce of 130 000 teachers. A great proportion of them have fled to greener pastures in neighbouring countries while others have left teaching altogether.
Last week, during a debate in the National Assembly on the Second Reading Stage of the Finance 2020 Bill, Finance minister, Mthuli Ncube promised to review civil servants’ salaries every three months to hedge against inflation.
“We are reviewing salaries – as I speak now, we reviewed civil servants salaries and gave them USD75 allowance and USD30 for pensioners,” Ncube said.
However, while teachers battle for the actioning of their USD520 government-worker salary agreement of 2017, it remains to be seen if Ncube’s promises are going to be fulfilled.
It would seem that after collating all the statements of stakeholders that Dzambara’s statement was ill-thought-out. Majongwe’s had dismissive words for the DMTL chairman.
“We can’t be responding to every barking dog. Our demands are justified. Those guys singing for their supper must just eat the few crumbs they are feasting on,” retorted Majongwe.