Mugabe's Plan Takes Shape As We Are Proved Right Again

These school children in Harare will most probably not have any teachers to teach them as schools open this month, with the largest Trade Union for teachers insisting that the strike they have called for will go ahead. But all is not as it appears. This is an extension of the struggle between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, with the state media playing up the strike as "massive" and relishing the troubles faced by MDC ministers who are in charge at the Ministries of Finance, Education and Public Service

Harare, Zimbabwe, 31 August 2009

You will recall that I told you a few weeks back that Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF were planning to incite civil servants to make life difficult for the MDC-T in government.

The information we got indicated that the ZANU PF component of the Inclusive government was urging civil servants to protest and even march, with a ZANU PF source saying, "Vachaita ekutiza maoffice avaichemera" - "They will end up running away from the offices they were begging for", in reference to MDC ministers.

Now, as it emerges that teachers, who are being paid a maximum of US$155 per month, intend to go on strike just as examinations are about to be written by students, there is emerging a clear division in the trade unions representing civil servants.

You must understand that, just as with the umbrella trade union, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union, which Mugabe sought to destroy by building and sponsoring a rival umbrella union, the ZFTU (Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions), so it is with the subsidiary bodies.

Everywhere you look, there are two trade unions representing specific areas of the civil service and private sector.

Right now, the union pressing ahead with the strike, which is the largest Teachers' Union in Zimbabwe, is NOT affiliated to the Tsvangirai-aligned Umbrella body for trade unions.

The Teachers' Union led by Ray Majongwe, who has penned anti-Mugabe songs before and been arrested for his efforts, is seen as sympathetic to Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC-T.

As a result, the PTUZ of Majongwe is refusing to embark on the teachers' strike that has been called for. They are willing to give Tendai Biti and Morgan Tsvangirai room to breathe. They will be meeting the Minister of Finance today at 4 p.m.

The older body, ZIMTA, the Zimbabwe Teachers' Association, is not affiliated to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), which is the main labour body and is seen as an extension of the MDC. In fact, Morgan Tsvangirai formed the MDC on the back of the ZCTU and the National Constitutional Assembly.

The MDC-aligned ZCTU say that they have no idea who ZIMTA are affiliated to, since they do not attend ZCTU meetings nor do they pay dues to that body.

ZIMTA are the ones pushing for a strike and they say they will not be moved by anything Tendai Biti, education minister David Coltart or Morgan Tsvangirai say.

So, just as I told you before, Mugabe and ZANU PF are clearly inciting unions loyal to them to rise up.

The idea is to make the MDCs out to be totally dishonest, incompetent and uncaring in government.

This is an election campaign by other means from ZANU PF.

Most people are unaware of the dynamics of these unions and they hear that teachers have decided to go on strike and they simply take that at face value.

What you must ask yourself is this:

Why did the teachers not strike (especially ZIMTA as the larger body) when things were really bad, when teachers were paid a pittance in Zimbabwe dollar terms (their salaries were not even enough to pay just bus fare to and from work)?

At that time, teachers' salaries were worth a mere US$3 (yes, three US dollars!), but the union did nothing about it, even as teachers left in droves, snapped up by schools in South Africa and even Britain, which has always had a perennial shortage of qualified teachers and nurses.

It was because Mugabe was solely in charge, is the only explanation, but with the man in the street not too bothered about the intricacies of Union politics, Mugabe may well succeed in his game of making the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai look like a lying bunch, unable to fulfil their promises to teachers even as the Prime Minister boasts about schools and hospitals being reopened.


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