Zimbabwean teachers working in fear

Despite the creation of a power-sharing government in February 2009, teachers in Zimbabwe continue to be victims of harassment and intimidation.

They are being threatened with violence by supporters of ZANU-PF, President Robert Mugabe’s political party. Teachers who spoke to Amnesty International in March 2009 expressed serious concerns about working in an environment in which they fear for their safety.

Many teachers were targeted during the 2008 elections, particularly those working in rural schools, and fear that they will be especially vulnerable in future elections, scheduled to take place in 2010.

Their employer, the Public Services Commission (PSC), a statutory body which employs all government workers, has done nothing to guarantee the safety of teachers. None of the reported incidents of torture and ill-treatment of teachers that occurred in 2008 has been investigated and no one has been brought to justice.

Amnesty International has called on the PSC to work with the Zimbabwe Republic Police to ensure that impartial and independent investigations are carried out into the torture and ill-treatment of teachers and other civil servants that took place between the March and June elections in 2008.

Those found to be responsible should be brought to justice and victims should receive redress. Such measures would be a first step to ensuring the safety of the teachers and improving the environment in which they are working.

During Zimbabwe’s last election, teachers were singled out as perceived supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change, the political party that was then in opposition, or as a result of their affiliation to the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).

The PTUZ recorded the deaths of seven teachers affiliated to the union and the harassment, intimidation and even torture of more than 60 other members.

Many teachers were forced to take refuge in urban areas or in neighbouring countries such as Botswana and South Africa, driven from their work places by security forces, and other ZANU-PF supporters, including veterans of Zimbabwe’s war of independence.

Many schools in rural areas were closed after ZANU-PF supporters, often led by soldiers, turned some schools into bases from which they operated in the run up to the June presidential election in 2008.