DOZENS of placard-wielding teachers and their union leaders yesterday stormed President Emmerson Mnangagwa's offices and handed over a petition demanding a salary increment, among various other demands.
Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe demanded dialogue with government.
"We want a salary review and our conditions of service must improve. We want government to reinstate our leave days. Since President Mnangagwa came to power, he has engaged all other people, but government workers. This is not a strike, but we are sending a message to government, but if our issues are not addressed, then you are rest assured schools will not open come May," Majongwe said.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers' Association of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said his members were exposed to a number of dangers, including wild animals.
"We are heading for elections and this is one of the most dangerous periods in the life of a rural teacher. We are always, at this time in the political life of this country, exposed to partisan activists, who force teachers to chant slogans and engage in activities that they should not be associated with. The security of teachers has to be dealt with before the elections," he said.
The teachers carried placards that seemed to poke fun at Mnangagwa's mantra that "Zimbabwe is open for business" as well as his "flag-scarf" that has become a trademark of the Zanu-PF leader.
"Zimbabwe is open for business, but schools will close till further notice. Hatidye scarf (We do not eat scarfs)," one of the placards read.
Zimbabwe Teachers' Association president Richard Gundani said teachers were being responsible by giving government a chance for negotiations.
"We are being very responsible and saying to government, take advantage of the holiday and engage us. We have been disturbed by the moving of public servants from a government ministry to the Office of the President and Cabinet. We do not even know where (Simbarashe) Mumbengegwi (Policy Implementation minister in the Office of the President) is. We do not even know if he has an office. He has just gone underground," Gundani said.
Asked if teachers were cognisant of the fact that government's coffers were in the red, PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou said Mnangagwa had his priorities wrong.
"We have not had a salary increment since 2013 and that is wrong because we see opulence everywhere. Government has been buying top-of-the-range cars for ministers and recently, traditional leaders took delivery of cars. These are not the actions of a broke administration. So we are saying we need our share, Zimbabwe has minerals and can afford to pay teachers a descent salary," he said.