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Cablegate: Strike in Zimbabwe Hits Education Hardest

VZCZCXRO0979
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0110/01 0420640
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 110638Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0045
INFO SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMCSUU/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0022
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0022
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0022

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000110

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
AF/S FOR BRIAN WALCH
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR MICHELLE GAVIN
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L. DOBBINS AND J. HARMON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
LABOR FOR SUDHA HALEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV SOCI PREL PHUM ASEC ZI
SUBJECT: STRIKE IN ZIMBABWE HITS EDUCATION HARDEST

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SUMMARY

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1. (SBU) Some government employees, including teachers, began a
labor action on February 5 in demand of higher wages, improved
working conditions, and price cuts at government-controlled
essential utilities. The greatest impact of the strike has been
felt in the education sector, as teacher absenteeism has resulted
in school closures in both urban and rural areas. Hospitals
remain open and are functioning normally, while some government
offices, including courts in Harare, are closed. END SUMMARY.

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The Strike's Impact on Education, Healthcare, and Government
Offices

--------------------------------------------- ----------------------
---------------------------

2. (SBU) Government workers initiated a strike on February 5 with
about 2,000 demonstrators gathering peacefully in Harare's Unity
Square. Police observed but did not disrupt the event. University
of Zimbabwe Professor John Makumbe, who has advised the World Bank
on efforts to audit the civil service, estimates that the
non-security sector civil service comprises 180,000 employees, of
which two thirds are teachers; these figures contain "ghost
workers" who receive salaries but do not hold positions. Makumbe
believes that teachers have accounted for the vast majority of
striking government workers; the strike has resulted in the closure
of two thirds of all public schools. (NOTE: An Embassy employee
who visited the town of Marondera in Mashonaland East on February 9
confirmed that all six of the town's schools were closed, and
school closures within Harare are widespread. END NOTE.)

3. (SBU) A joint statement produced by the Zimbabwe Teachers
Association (ZIMTA), the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe
(PTUZ), and the Public Service Association (PSA), urged the
inclusive government to convene an urgent meeting with APEX, the
primary negotiating body for civil servants, in an effort to end
the strike. The statement followed a series of negotiations that
broke down on February 2 after civil service unions rejected a
US$16 per month wage increase. The two sides appear miles apart,
as the Herald reported that the unions were demanding approximately
US$500 on February 5. That figure was a reduction from a previous
request of about US$600. PTUZ Secretary General Raymond Majongwe
told us his union would accept US$300 per month. Currently, the
lowest paid civil servants earn US$150 per month.

4. (SBU) ZIMTA's CEO, Sifiso Ndlovu, told us on February 9 that
at least 50 percent of the union's 44,000 members were currently on
strike, and he estimated in the urban areas of Harare, Bulawayo,
Bindura, and Chinhoyi, that the number exceeded 70 percent. PTUZ
reported that their 16,000 members were also striking and estimated
90 percent participation. (COMMENT: While participation is high,
both these estimates are likely exaggerated figures. Anecdotal
reports indicate that many teachers that receive substantial salary
supplements from parents are not participating. These teachers are
predominantly located in more affluent urban neighborhoods. END
COMMENT.) PTUZ Programs Communications and Information Officer
Oswald Madziwa said that his organization joined the strike knowing

HARARE 00000110 002 OF 002


full well it would not result in meaningful pay raises because the
GOZ does not have the resources. Rather, their motivation was to
highlight key issues and press for action over the failure to raise
funds from the Chiadzwa diamond fields and the high rates charged
by electric, phone, and water utilities. He said his organization
believed ZANU-PF was fanning the flames of the strike, via its
control of the state media, to further its arguments that sanctions
have undermined the economy.

5. (SBU) While some press reports are claiming that junior
medical staff are on strike, Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZIMA)
Secretary General Dr. Tapuwanashe Bwakura told us that the Harare
public hospitals (Parirenyatwa, Harare, and Chitungwiza General),
were fully functioning. We also spoke to Dr. Mbongeni Ndlovu, a
Consultant Physician and Head of Medicine at Bulawayo's Mpilo
Hospitals, who said that the two main hospitals in Bulawayo (Mpilo
and United Bulawayo) were also running normally. Ndlovu believed
that the prevailing sentiment in Bulawayo was that the strike would
not lead to increased salaries as people understood that the GOZ
did not have the funds to grant meaningful pay raises. One nurse
with whom we spoke at Harare Hospital said that the nurses were not
striking, nor had their union requested them to do so.

6. (SBU) Some government offices were closed on February 10,
including the Central Registry in the Ministry of Home Affairs, the
public service ministry, the education ministry, as well as local
administrative offices in Bulawayo and Gweru. The Supreme Court,
High Court, and the Harare Magistrates Court were also closed. The
court closures have delayed numerous politically sensitive hearings
including the High Court trial of MDC-T Treasurer Roy Bennett and a
bail hearing of three MDC councilors in Banket who were arrested
two weeks ago on charges of killing a ZANU-PF councilor. (NOTE:
Certain classes of government workers, including the police, are
categorized as "essential services" under Zimbabwe's labor laws,
which makes it substantially harder for them to engage in labor
actions. END NOTE.)

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COMMENT

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7. (SBU) At this point, the strike's impact has largely been
limited to the education sector. Educational workers are
particularly vulnerable as they have not received additional salary
support from donor groups. Some healthcare workers, including
certain classes of doctors and nurses, have benefitted from donor
sponsored "top-up" payments, which appear to have lessened their
need to participate. It is likely that ZANU-PF will try to spin
the strike as evidence of the inability of the MDC, which heads the
finance and education ministries, to deliver. END COMMENT.
RAY

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