Rural teachers have urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa, to stop commandeering school children to his rallies.
In a statement yesterday, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) said educators were getting increasingly worried over continued reports of school children and their teachers seen at Zanu PF functions and in some cases seen clad in party campaign T-shirts.
“Artuz condemns in strongest terms the repetitive use of Mugabe’s tactics by President Mnangagwa and Zanu PF and calls upon government to implement the recommendations by the Commission or face legal action in the highest courts of the land. Education is a fundamental right and that right must be respected,” the statement reads in part.
Contacted for comment, Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Paul Mangwana said there was nothing wrong with school children attending rallies.
“The president will be wearing several hats each time he has a function including being a political leader so if the children come to listen to their leader, what is wrong with that?” Mangwana asked rhetorically.
Mangwana denied that teachers were also forced to abandon their work stations for Zanu PF rallies saying: “I don’t know where that is happening”.
“In any case I am not at liberty to discuss such issues because they are not of a legal nature in my view and I am legal secretary.”
The latest condemnation by the teachers union comes hardly a fortnight after the Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) rapped Mnangagwa for the practice.
Zinasu secretary-general Ashley Pfunye told MDC supporters during an electoral reforms demo in Harare a fortnight ago that Mnangagwa was behaving as if he was campaigning to become a school headmaster not head of State.
“He (Mnangagwa) acts as if he wants to become a headmaster because we have seen the abuse of school children that is going on when he forces them to attend his campaign rallies, leaving us wondering whether he is serious about contesting for the country’s presidency or he wants to become a school headmaster,” Pfunye said.
Artuz has made attempts to stop the abuse of school children when they launched their Safe Schools Campaign last year which was aimed at protecting teachers and learners during the often volatile election periods.
The group also approached the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) to raise a complaint of “gross violations” of both children and teachers’ rights. This led the commission to recommend to Parliament and the executive arm of government to protect schools and leaners from political interference.
“This flies in the face of the recommendations in the Investigative Report by Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC),” said Artuz statement.
The teachers union also called on Sadc, the AU and UN agencies to put pressure on the Zimbabwean government to honour its obligation by barring political activities in schools “in line with our Safe Schools Campaign”