NINE members of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) were arrested yesterday during a demonstration against poor remuneration and working conditions at the Africa Unity Square and were briefly detained at Harare Central Police Station as government cracked down on dissent, their lawyer said.
BY FARAI MATIASHE/VANESSA GONYE
The nine, Artuz president Obert Masaraure, Christine Jubane, Robson Chere, Regai Chinhuto, Fortune Jamela, Lawrence Mapengo, Andrew Munguri, Munyaradzi Ndawana and Gerald Tawengwa, who were represented by Doug Coltart of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, were later released without charge.
Coltart confirmed the Artuz members’ brief detention and release.
“My clients were unlawfully detained and without any charges. When I got to Harare Central Police Station, I told the officers that I wanted to leave with my clients, but they said they could not release them without an instruction,” he said.
Coltart said the nine were then released after he had threatened to file an urgent court application for unlawful arrest.
“They continued with the march at Africa Unity Square and proceeded to Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube’s office, where they intend to stay until their grievances are met,” he said.
Coltart said the arrest was unconstitutional and that there was urgent need to deal with the crisis.
“This is a very unfortunate violation of human rights. The State deployed over 200 officers at Africa Unity Square,” he said.
Masaraure said their demonstration would continue with the same routine until their demands are met.
“We proceeded with our march around 2:30pm and we were camped at Mthuli’s offices until 4:30pm. This is going to be our routine until our demands are met,” he said.
Masaraure said while camped at Ncube’s offices, they received feedback from representatives, who had sought audience from the Finance minister’s office.
“The feedback we got was that government cannot pay our salaries in US [United States] dollars and what that means is teachers are incapacitated and the strike will continue until we receive favourable responses as well as action on our demands,” he said.
Masaraure said schools would not open as teachers had no capacity to offer their services.
“Schools are not opening. How can they, when there are no teachers? For now, everything must be on hold until we have a lasting solution. We have an arrogant Minister of Finance and we are appealing on the President to do something,” he said.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) and Citizens’ Manifesto, in statements issued yesterday, castigated government’s move to stifle calls for proper conditions of service and favourable remuneration.
“Citizens’ Manifesto calls on the government to recognise the economic emergency situation in the country and immediately commence an inclusive stakeholders’ dialogue to work out a solution that works for all,” the Citizens’ Manifesto statement read.
CiZC slammed government for seeking to bar demonstrations by repressive means.
“Government, instead of addressing the concerns of its workers, has turned brutal against suffering civil servants and the ordinary citizens. Such a militant approach can only serve to worsen the situation in the country,” the statement read.
Artuz members are demanding that their salaries be paid in United States dollars and that schools be adequately equipped.