By Obert Masaraure
The year 2020 saw the new dispensation aggressively implementing a sly tactic of dividing citizens voices. We now confidently call the dispensation new because it has demonstrated a new level of ruthlessness never witnessed under Mugabe. Some sections of our society were deliberately coopted and accommodated on the gravy train while those who chose to remain principled faced immense persecution. The persecution was aimed at completely wiping out all dissenting voices. The main opposition is a clear case study and the Trade Union movement was not spared either.
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, ARTUZ was clearly labeled as a regime change agent by the state’s propaganda machinery. After the labelling we endured unprecedented attacks from the state including, arrests, convictions, sentencing, salary cessations, suspensions from work, hacking of emails, physical violence and break ins at our Head Office.
As the world battled with COVID19, we were battling for survival under attack from an unrelenting State. The state’s assault on our union rarely got the attention of the mainstream media because media was preoccupied with COVID19 and some sections of the media have been captured by the ruling establishment.
At the close of 2020 we look back with pride, we survived a brutal system and managed to remain united. All the weeks we spent in the bush hiding from Mnangagwa’s Ferrets never broke our resolve and our unity. We remain a united fighting machinery. We are further excited that while we faced all the persecution, more teachers saw it fit to join us. Teachers chose us over the poodles who were coopted by the state.
The persecution from the state never deterred us from fighting for labour justice and inclusive access to education. We stood on a strong foundation of our 2020 congress and remained guided by our solid five year strategic plan. At the end of the year we ticked boxes and celebrated a 82% achievement of set goals. We expanded our partners’ network, undertook research, recruited and retained members and led series of successful lobbying and advocacy initiatives.
We do not expect any leniency from the ruling establishment in 2021, we expect more attacks from the vindictive state. We will however focus on pushing for reforms both on the terrain of labour jurisprudence and on administration conduct. We further recommit ourselves to the #SaveOurEducationZW campaign, which aims at securing lasting solutions to the multifaceted crisis blighting our education.
In the interim, the urgency of now is to secure the release of Cde Sheila Chisirimunhu from prison and clear the names of all members facing various frivolous charges.
We will continue to push for the establishment of a united fighting front for all teachers’ unions. It is however unfortunate that some of the teacher unions have been coopted by the establishment and are not sincere on unity.
In 2021 we will openly collaborate with all progressive forces that believe in our fight for labour justice and inclusive access to education. We wont shy away from embracing support of progressive governments across the globe who intend to support our causes. We will further openly embrace the support of the genuine political opposition in Zimbabwe. ARTUZ further recommits to work under the umbrella of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, ZCTU, we hope to regularize our approved membership through completing minor administrative details.
The open collaboration approach is a direct response to the sinister agenda being pushed by the state, of isolating and crushing dissenting voices. We seek to unite all excluded voices and form a common fighting front so that we collectively push for reforms.
2021 is a year of collaborations.
We thank the teachers of Zimbabwe who continue to believe in us under these difficult circumstances. Lets remain resolute and push for reforms. Selling out by joining yellow unions is easy way out to get stands and other crumbs but the future of our profession will be in danger.
In 2021 we pledge to achieve the restoration of our USD 520 salaries. To achieve that we will begin the year with completely withdrawing our labour. We will not be invigilating the ongoing shambolic public examinations and we wont report for duty when schools open.
We wish all Zimbabweans a fighting 2021. Lets collaborate and liberate ourselves.