The impoverishment of professionals by the government has reached heart-rending levels, but those who dare complain are often victimised, leaving public sector workers feeling helpless in the face of a double whammy of economic suffering and political intimidation.
The NewsHawks has seen the payslip of an experienced rural teacher which shows a shockingly paltry salary, which explains why the educators describe it as a slave wage.
The current payslip shows a salary of ZW$39 636 (about US$30 on the prevailing parallel market rate), while the rural allowance is ZW$1 982 (US$1.30) and the housing allowance is ZW$7 508 (US$5).
After deductions for funeral cover, medical aid, National Social Security payment, among others, the teacher’s net salary is ZW$24 172.94 (US$19).
The teacher can derive cold comfort from a US$125 cushioning allowance and a US$75 Covid-19 allowance which can be cut off anytime as it was awarded at the sole discretion of the government at the height of the pandemic which has since been contained.
At Independence, educators not only earned respect across all social classes but also made enough money to either build a modest house or service a home mortgage. For the older generation of teachers who have since retired, the Zimbabwe/Rhodesia era remains a cherished one.
The vintage Peugeot 404 was then known as a car for headmasters or senior educationists. But today paying bus fare daily is now a tall order and relations between the employer and the employee have turned frosty.
The shockingly paltry income earned by the profession which is the backbone of all professions has become a source of resentment. Any attempt to send this message to government has often been met with police brutality, arrests and intimidation.
Years of misrule and corruption have triggered an economic collapse of Zimbabwe’s once buoyant economy. Hustling has become the order of the day as the economy rapidly becomes informalised.
Maphepha Thembakuye Moyo, a Grade 4 teacher at Silwane Primary School in Lupane, elicited empathy as he narrated to The NewsHawks how tough life has become for him on these meagre earnings.
Moyo, who is originally from Bulawayo, rents a modest apartment for US$150 a month and his average expenses for basic foodstuffs for his family are US$250.
He requires fuel to travel from Silwane at least three times a month to his home in Bulawayo, but that has become unaffordable and strained his family relations.
“I am supposed to pay a modest wage to my herdboy back in the rural areas, pay for medical bills, funeral cover, clothing, needs of my twin daughters and aged parents, but it’s presently now just a pipe dream, yet I am a professional and employed. This situation has broken my mental health,” said Moyo.
To add to Moyo’s plight, his daughter is asthmatic and needs care, which comes at an additional cost that is now out of his reach.
Leonard Mabasa, a heritage studies teacher at Mukodza Secondary School in Buhera, is in the same fix.
“I find it very difficult to look after my parents who live on subsistence agriculture. My clothes are now below par. Learners sometimes laugh at my old-fashioned clothes. I feel robbed of my dignity,” he bemoaned.
Teachers who have tried to be vocal against the measly salaries in the rural areas have been victimised.
The NewsHawks is aware of some rural teachers in the Midlands province who have been expelled from their jobs after protesting the poor wages.
In a letter obtained by this publication dated 16 January 2023, Midlands provincial education director (PED) Jameson Machimbira fired Maliyami Primary School senior teacher Richard Siasongwe for joining a protest organised by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) on a charge of misconduct.
Part of the dismissal letter reads: “The charge of misconduct preferred on you on 25 September 2021 and your letter dated 25 September 2021 responding to the charge and subsequent hearing which took place and which you attended on 10 June 2022 refers.”
“In terms of Section 46 (4) of the Public Service Regulations 2 000, as amended, you are found guilty of violating paragraph 1 of the First Schedule (Section 2) in that you absented yourself from duty without cause . . .”
On 10 February this year, Mudara Edwin Ndaiziveyi, who taught at Maboke Secondary School in Gokwe South, was also dismissed under similar circumstances. The NewsHawks obtained the discharge-from-service form which he was made to sign.
Another teacher victimised for protesting the “slave wages” is Gerald Tavengwa, who taught at Mapfungautsi Secondary School in Gokwe.
“I was fired for fighting for better working conditions for teachers in Zimbabwe last year, 2022. In Gokwe, I had a house that could accommodate me and my family costing US$150 my transport to and from work was approximately US$100 per month to just travel on weekends only from Gokwe Centre to Gokwe-Mapfungautsi.”
“There were, in total, living expenses in excess of US$500 which I could not afford due to the peanuts I was getting before I was unfairly relieved of my duties,” he told The NewsHawks
.The National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) has failed to resolve the salary crisis after three meetings this month were deferred. This effectively means that in March 2023, teachers will earn the same “slave wages” they earned last month, as highlighted above.
Artuz president Obert Masaraure told The NewsHawks that the situation is dire.
“Teachers are struggling to make ends meet. Some have failed to pay examination fees for their children and others are reportedly failing to pay house helpers. The NJNC seems unmoved as they take forever to conclude a deal that can bring relief to the teachers of Zimbabwe,” he said.
On 6 December 2022, six public sector unions, including the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta), Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Artuz and the Education Union of Zimbabwe (EUZ), filed an application at the High Court under case number 8261/22.
The unions are seeking a declaratory order in terms of section 85 (1) of the constitution. The application is premised on the apparent violation of the constitutionally provided right to collective bargaining. The unions are seeking to assert the right to collective bargaining and the striking off of unconstitutional powers of Labour minister Paul Mavhima which they say are stalling NJNC negotiations.
The applicants are seeking the following order from the court: “It is be and is hereby declared that; (a) The effect of Section 203 (1)(b) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act, 2013, is that the conditions of service of members of the Public Service including their salaries, allowances and other benefits must be determined through a collective bargaining process which results in a collective bargaining agreement.”
The application also submitted that “Section 19(1) of the Public Service Act [Chapter 16:04] which gives the Public Service Commission and the Minister of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare the authority to unilaterally determine conditions of service of members of the public service without going through collective bargaining process is unconstitutional as it is inconsistent with section 203(1)(b) as read with section 65(5) of the Constitution.”
Section 20 of the Public Service Act is again being deemed unconstitutional by the applicants for being inconsistent with section 203(1)(b) as read with section 65(5) of the constitution in that it does not provide for the right to collective bargaining and to organise but only provides for discretionary consultation which may not result in any collective bargaining agreement.
Masaraure said the unions had every right to file the court application.
“It is an indisputable fact that the NJNC has no legal leg to stand on. It is an unconstitutional creature under which the employer unilaterally fixes conditions of services without going through the section 65(5) process of collective bargaining. Under the NJNC regime, unions are useless as they are just consulted,” he said.
“The NJNC is therefore unsustainable as aptly captured by the current labour minister Prof Paul Mavima on Wednesday 4 August 2022 addressing a workshop organised by Zimta, I quote, ‘We are in a process of creating a CBC to replace NJNC . . .,” he said.
The trade unionist, who is also spokesperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, revealed that the new salary demand for teachers is US$1 260 and that the educators must stay home in protest until they get awarded a living wage they deserve.
“Teachers have resolved to form a rank and file movement, the #Teachers4USD movement which seeks to organise resistance outside the armpits of captured union bureaucrats. Unions cannot be captured; only the leaders can be captured. The teachers are collaborating across the union divide to hold government to account.”
“The teachers have already staged a massive strike which has seen teachers being threatened by authorities. The number of members for the movement are swelling, the NJNC postponements are helping to fuel the struggle.”
“The message remains: Teachers Stay at Home and Demand US$1 260,” said Masaraure. *NewsHawks*