By Brenna Matendere
TWO vocal unionists representing rural teachers in Zimbabwe have not been paid for almost two years after the government froze their salaries after they took part in last year’s protests against a steep increase in the price of fuel.
Obert Masaraure, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe
(ARTUZ) president, and the union’s secretary-general, Robson Chere, continue providing their services despite the salary freeze.
Masaraure said his ordeal started on January 18, 2019 when he was allegedly abducted by state operatives and consequently failed to report for duty. His salary was immediately stopped.
“During my abduction, the state security operatives severely tortured me and later dumped me at Harare Central Police Station,” Masaraure said.
“I was charged with subverting a constitutionally elected government.
“The charge emanated from my alleged role in organising protests staged from 14 to 16 January 2019.
“I spent 16 days in remand prison and was later released on bail. Upon my release, I learnt that my salary had been ceased by my employer.
“This was cruel as I had communicated my ordeal to my supervisor, who is the school headmaster.
“The same state, which had abducted me, tortured me, falsely accused me and thrown me into prison, was now accusing me of being absent from my workplace.”
Masaraure said he was later advised that the outstanding salary would soon be paid, but that did not happen.
“Eighteen months on, they still claim that they are processing my salary,” he said.
Chere also narrated a similar ordeal.
“I was abducted by state security agents in Arcturus last year during the January national shutdown which was called by ZCTU. I was later dumped at Goromonzi Police Station where some charges were preferred against me.
“I was denied bail by Goromonzi magistrate Felistas Chakanyuka, so as a result I was detained at the notorious Goromonzi Prison for 16 days before being acquitted of all the three charges.
“I then returned to my work station at Arcturus High School only to find that my salary had been ceased.
“Some few weeks later, I was given a Public Service charge letter with misconduct allegations emanating from the incident of my abduction.”
Chere said a disciplinary hearing was conducted in September 2019 and on January 14 this year, he was transferred to Dimbe Secondary School. He was also fined $200, but he is yet to receive his salary.
“I have been forced to withdraw my daughter from boarding school because I could no longer afford the fees,” Masaraure said.
“We have been surviving on the meagre earnings of my wife. We live in want of basics like food, clean water and healthcare, among other basics.
“We have failed to take care of our extended family who traditionally relied on us for support.”
Both Masaraure and Chere say the authorities have been citing bureaucratic procedures as reasons for the delays in unfreezing their salaries, but believe they are being victimised for their work as union leaders.
The duo’s lawyer Doug Coltart said the government made a commitment to pay his clients in March.
“We signed a deed of settlement with relevant authorities in March this year for the unfreezing of those salaries,” Coltart said.
“But up to now, nothing has happened. “We are now going to approach the High Court so that the deed of settlement becomes a court order.”
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Patrick Dzumbu said they would help the two to get their salaries.
“As a ministry, we are not victimising the two at all,” Dzumbu said.
“The issue is being handled by the Civil Service Commission and Treasury. We will try to help so their salaries are unfrozen.”