Bid to take over schools illegal – Coltart

HARARE – Zimbabwe's bid to force private schools to come under majority black control under a much contested empowerment law is illegal, the country's education minister said on Wednesday, highlighting divisions within the coalition government over the policy.\r\n

A government notice issued last week by empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere gave foreign-owned banks and private schools a year to comply with a law requiring 51 percent shareholding by local blacks.

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But Minister of Education David Coltart, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party in a coalition government formed with President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, said the directive was illegal.

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“This action is unlawful, unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable,” Coltart said on his official Twitter account.

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Coltart also told the state-controlled Herald newspaper on Wednesday that Kasukuwere had previously assured him that private schools would not be targeted under the empowerment drive.

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He said most private schools, formerly the preserve of whites but are now largely multi-racial, were owned by churches and trusts.

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Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who is sharing power with long-ruling Mugabe in a shaky coalition, has also sharply criticised the empowerment law and said Kasukuwere’s latest announcement does not reflect the cabinet’s position.

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Kasukuwere, a Mugabe ally, has already forced mining companies such as Rio Tinto and Impala Platinum, the world’s second-largest platinum miner, to turn over majority stakes in their local units to black Zimbabweans.