SW Radio Africa (London)

28 January 2008

Zimbabwe: Teachers On Strike As Union Blasts Government for Corruption

After embarking on a "go-slow" action since rejecting the offer of a 1,000% pay increase by government, teachers in Zimbabwe have finally decided to conduct a full-on strike. The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said its members will not be reporting for work until their demands are met. PTUZ president, Raymond Majongwe, blasted government officials for spending a fortune on all the wrong issues while the teachers simply want to be able to report to work and live a decent life.

Majongwe said they are demanding a minimum salary of Z$1.7 billion per month. This includes a monthly transport allowance of Z$352 million and a housing allowance of Z$240 million per month. They are also demanding regular salary reviews in order to keep up with inflation, which is unofficially estimated to be 150,000%.

Majongwe criticised government and ruling party officials for spending billions on less important agendas. He pointed to a report on the state television ZTV this weekend that showed ZANU-PF officials in Matabeleland South, ululating as they unveiled 18 brand new 4x4 vehicles to be used in the party's election campaign. "There is corruption in the corridors of power," said the outspoken activist. He added: "Their children have the luxury of going to schools outside the country."

And salaries are not the only issue. We spoke to a teacher who described the dire conditions under which the schools are operating. Charles Mabwadarika, a Harare based teacher, said there are no books for the students to read or to write in. The furniture in the classrooms is old and in a state of disrepair. Students are being crammed into small spaces where they learn standing up or sitting on the floor. There is also not enough chalk for teachers to use.

Union officials say teachers cannot live on their current salary. Government is not communicating with the teachers, so it appears students at state run schools will not be learning for some time to come.

Meanwhile, workers at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) are reported to have been on a go-slow for the past fortnight. Their dispute with government is also over salaries.

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