BY BRENNA MATENDERE
Despite attempts by the Apex Council to urge them to engage government further, some teachers began their industrial action on Monday.
In an interview, PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou told NewsDay that the union’s leaders had been receiving death threats for leading the strike.
“The merchants of violence have resorted to threats directed against PTUZ leadership, with threats that they can burn us in our homes at night. Most of the threats are directed at secretary-general, Raymond Majongwe, with some such claiming to be untouchables. Our message is very clear, that we do not eat threats. We have nothing to fear except fear itself,” Zhou said.
The PTUZ president said programmes and communications officer, Ladistos Zunde, had also received numerous threats.
Majongwe took his case to Braeside Police Station.
“Necessary measures have been taken to report the cases against the rogue elements, some of whom claim to be connected to a Chegutu notorious politician.
Let it be known that you don’t shoot at the messenger, but at the message. Our message is clear that teachers are starving. Anyone who doubts this must visit a teacher’s house and his/her children. No amount of threats and vilification will stop PTUZ leaders from amplifying the legitimate labour demands by teachers,” Zhou said.
Contacted for comment, police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said he was out of office and would check with Braeside police.
“If the matter has been reported, police will take swift action to make sure anyone behind the crime is brought to book,” he said.
Majongwe said even ordinary teachers were being harassed and intimidated by suspected State security agents.
“I am disappointed that ClO (Central Intelligence Organisation) operatives are visiting several schools, collecting names of PTUZ members, phone numbers, addresses, marital status and position in the union. They are also demanding the same from our offices in all provinces. This is a sad chapter we thought we had left,” Majongwe said.
Zhou said members of his union had heeded the call to strike.
“Several teachers gave heed to our call for withdrawal of labour, particularly in Matabeleland North, South and Bulawayo; Mashonaland East, Central and West. Midlands, Masvingo, Manicaland and Harare had mixed responses, with half of teachers going and the other half giving heed to our call for withdrawal of labour,” he said.
He added that while the Apex Council would keep negotiating with government on behalf of other civil servants still at work, “teachers will negotiate from the trenches”.