Half of all teachers are victims of violence

More than half of all teachers have at one point during the past decade experienced some form of political violence according to a new report released at the weekend.


A Progressive Teachers of Union Zimbabwe report is based on the findings of a survey carried out between April and June 2011 involving 1 200 teachers randomly selected from across the country, but with particular bias to rural areas that have suffered the most political violence since 2000.

The document details how militants loyal to President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) party, war veterans, soldiers and other state security agents have at every major election attacked teachers, with hundreds forced to flee schools mid-term in fear for their lives.

“High percentages of teachers reported various violations perpetrated against them,” said the report. “Threats and forced attendance at political meetings were the most frequent violations, but assault, torture, extortion, being disqualified from voting, and forced displacement were all reported with high frequencies,” it added.

The report calls on the coalition government to ban political parties from carrying out their activities at schools. It says teachers were targeted because they were: “either seen as opposition supporters, too influential in the community, or not actively supporting Zanu (PF).”

According to the report, when respondents were asked what they would do if violence recurred, “a large percentage (50%) responded by saying they would flee the area and move to urban schools.”

Zanu (PF) spokesman Rugare Gumbo could not be reached for comment. But Mugabe’s party has in the past denied reports linking its supporters to political violence.

The report details how teachers at Muzinda and Machiva schools in Zaka district were during the run-up to June 2008 presidential run-off election seriously beaten up as punishment for allegedly campaigning for Tsvangirai and his MDC who were then in opposition.

“On this tragic day, the 2nd of June 2008, (the) teachers were accused of campaigning for the MDC. The attack resulted in one teacher, Tuarai Gwenzi (not real name) being severely injured and hospitalised at St. Antony’s Mission Hospital,” said the report.

The report calls for the creation of school protection committees and for civil society and teachers unions to develop early warning systems to raise alarm when teachers come under attack says in several cases teachers were told how to vote during the presidential run-off election.

Analysts say new incidents of violence, including the murder last Tuesday of an MDC activist, Sharukai Mukwena, from Zaka, that have been reported in recent months are sign that the next polls could again be marred by violence even with a new constitution in place.

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