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Cablegate: Teacher Union Travails

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

171011Z Nov 04





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) SUMMARY: On November 9, Raymond Majongwe, of the
Progressive Teacher's Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) briefed the
Ambassador on his recent visit to South Africa to
participate in a workshop sponsored by the Center for Civic
Education's CIVITAS program. Majongwe, a civil society
activist who has been arrested and jailed numerous times,
spoke about his participation in the CIVITAS workshop, his
activism, and the difficulties for civic organizations in
Zimbabwe. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Majongwe is the founding Secretary General of PTUZ,
a teacher-led union formed in 1997 when teachers decided
that the existing, government-sponsored Zimbabwe Teachers
Association did not serve their interests. PTUZ often
opposes the GOZ and has brought several cases against the
Ministry of Education or other government officials on
behalf of teachers who have been abused. Majongwe, who is
also a member of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
(ZCTU), has been arrested several times for his
participation in teachers' strikes and for conducting union
meetings. Majongwe told the Ambassador that he expects PTUZ
offices to be raided by police in the near future.

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3. (SBU) From September 25 to October 9 Majongwe attended a
CIVITAS workshop in South Africa. Majongwe was nominated by
PAS Harare to CIVITAS. CIVITAS is a curriculum framework
sponsored by the Center for Civic Education, which promotes
civic education in schools. Majongwe said that he was very
impressed with the civic and democratic values taught in
South African schools and hoped Zimbabwe's schools could
implement such a curriculum.

4. (SBU) Majongwe said it was very difficult for PTUZ to
obtain meetings with government officials and that it was
very difficult to have teachers' meetings in certain areas.
According to Majongwe, the police have broken up PTUZ
meetings and refused permission for meetings when PTUZ
applied under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).
Majongwe said that 800 teachers who went on strike in
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city and a stronghold of
the opposition MDC, recently were denied their salaries.
Majongwe characterized this as discrimination based on
tribal affiliation, since only minority Ndebele teachers
were penalized and majority Shona teachers who participated
in the strike were not. The teachers were not notified of
the suspension of pay nor given a hearing, and the GOZ
simply contacted banks to stop payment. He added that the
ILO was following this and other recent developments.

5. (SBU) Majongwe said that, based on increasing political
influences in the schools and violence against teachers in
the 2000 election, PTUZ initiated a Schools as Politics Free
Zones campaign, partly supported by a Democracy and Human
Rights Fund grant from the Embassy. In advance of the March
2005 elections, PTUZ was meeting with local leaders and
government officials to attempt to prevent political
rallies, at which teachers are often required to attend,
from being held at schools and to prevent political violence
against teachers.

6. (SBU) Majongwe said he expected the environment for PTUZ
to become more difficult and more politicized as the
elections approached and with the expected passage of the
NGO bill (see reftel). He said that it was likely that the
GOZ, which sees PTUZ, along with organizations such as ZCTU,
as a donor-sponsored organization intent on destabilizing
the Government, could step up efforts under POSA and other
laws to hamstring PTUZ operations and that PTUZ risked being
deregistered as a trade union.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Majongwe's description of his
organization's difficulties in organizing and meeting with
officials is another example of the obstacles unions and
others in civil society face. Teachers are traditionally
seen in Zimbabwe as highly influential on children and
generally respected by the community, so schools and
teachers are strategic targets as the GOZ seeks to control
information in the run-up the 2005 parliamentary elections.
International image and relations with multilateral
organizations may be a slowly growing priority for ZANU-PF,
but Majongwe's report and the recent COSATU expulsion
reinforce the reality that domestic political control
remains its chief priority. END COMMENT.

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