Children drafted to sign sanctions petition

coltartKAROI President Robert Mugabes supporters have drafted hundreds of schoolchildren from Mashonaland West province to sign a petition demanding scrapping of Western sanctions against the veteran leader and his top allies. (Pictured: DAVID COLTART . . . Education Minister)

Mugabes ZANU PF party hopes to collect at least two million signatures for the petition that shall be handed to ambassadors of Western countries that imposed the sanctions for onward transmission to their capitals.

High schoolteachers and children here yesterday told ZimOnline that ZANU PF activists have in recent weeks disrupted learning at several schools where they have visited ordering both teachers and senior pupils to sign the anti-sanctions petition.

When the youths came at the school, we thought they wanted only the teachers to sign the petition but they later asked to address students in their classes, said a senior teacher at Chikangwe High School in Karoi, about 204 kilometres north-west of Harare. All children with identity cards were told to sign the petition, said the teacher who declined to be named for fear of possible reprisal.

Education Minister David Coltart was not immediately available for comment on the matter. Authorities at Chikangwe and several other schools visited by ZimOnline refused to discuss the matter, referring our reporters to Mashonaland West provincial education officer Sylvester Mashayamombe. He refused to discuss the matter.

But the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) criticised ZANU PF for disrupting learning at schools and accused Mugabes party of turning some schools into centres for signing the petition. We denounce the abuse of school facilities by ZANU PF where some senior education officers throughout the county are forcing teachers to sign the petition and also turning schools into petition signing centres,|said PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou.

Mashonaland West ZANU PF chairman Robert Sikanyika said schoolchildren must sign the petition because they are also affected by sanctions. But he denied that party activists were disrupting lessons at schools to collect signatures from teachers and learners.

There is nothing sinister to have students signing the petition as they are affected by the sanction imposed by the West. We want to surpass the two million target said Sikanyika. The European Union, United States, Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand, imposed targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his top officials about nine years ago as punishment for allegedly stealing elections, human rights violations and failure to uphold the rule of law.

Mugabe, who denies violating human rights or stealing elections, says the sanctions have had a wider impact beyond the targeted individuals to damage Zimbabwes once vibrant economy.

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