THE Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has deployed a team of heavily armed riot police officers at the Midlands State University (MSU) to keep a close eye on disgruntled examiners marking Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC) Ordinary Level scripts after skirmishes broke out there earlier this week.
The examiners were protesting against non-payment of their allowances. One has since been arrested and seven have been chased away.
Sources said the cops, brandishing AK47 riffles, batons and tear smoke equipment, have set up a 24hr camp on the premises and often make sporadic bursts into the marking rooms to threaten the examiners, whom they refer to as sellouts.
This development has been confirmed to NewZimbabwe by the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) and sources within the university.
PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou said the move could however backfire as examiners may decide to sabotage ZIMSEC because of the manner in which they have been treated.
“Anti-riot officers are now camped there, they are forcing examiners to work and that will definitely impact the quality of results,” Zhou said
“Examiners are obviously under a lot of stress and having officers to fear will further compound their problems.”
The examiners, some of them elderly, were Tuesday rounded up after deciding to join striking teachers in the middle of their marking schedule.
They cited incapacitation and failure by ZIMSEC to pay them allowances meant for their upkeep in Gweru.
Seven of the examiners are said to have been dismissed after being identified as ring leaders.
According to a source privy to developments, the examiners were even denied meal tickets as a form of punishment for their behaviour.
“Armed police officers are manning some of the areas examiners are working from,” a source said.
“They are being forced to mark and some of the police officers are even mocking them asking why they came in the first place. They say they have no right to strike since they had already agreed to mark the examinations.
“At one point they were denied meal tickets as punishment for their decision to strike while some of the teachers have been labeled sellouts by the police.”
The source added junior teachers had been at the forefront of the strike while seniors, most of whom are marking science subjects, accounts and woodwork chose to take a step back.
Their decision to take a step back however did not save them from arrest and punishment.
ZIMSEC promised examiners a US$25 daily allowance for those staying off campus and US$12 for those on campus but instead paid ZW$9,000 upon arrival to sustain them for 26 to 28 days.
The amount paid translated to about US$2,50 per day.
ARTUZ secretary general Robson Chere said ZIMSEC must accept that it is the one which is wrong and stop the ongoing commandeering of centres accommodated by examiners by the police.
“These are professionals, they cannot be ordered to do their work by police officers being guided by ZIMSEC,” said Chere. ZIMSEC must do the honourable thing and pay examiners their dues, consider their grievances and take back all seven examiners it has fired on full pay since it is the one which is on the wrong here. it is the one which called in police to order examiners around like this,” he said.
ZIMSEC spokesperson Nicholette Dlamini said everything was in order, denying any strike despite police having been called in.
“There are no strikes that have been reported, everyone is at work. I am not aware of anyone who has stopped marking. We have sufficient markers at all our centres and they are currently marking,” she said.