England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Zimbabwe: Solidarity with the striking teachers!

By International Socialist Alternative Zimbabwe correspondents

On 17 March the Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Unions (FOZEU), after consulting with more than 50 000 members, announced that teachers would go on strike from 20 — 23 March. This action is a direct response to the state’s ongoing failure to provide a decent living wage for public sector workers. The latest offer to increase workers salaries by US$20 will not bring any difference to the plight of teachers amidst the skyrocketing cost of living crisis and hyper-inflation.

This strike comes weeks after calls for a nurses’ strike and the 13 kilometre march by St Faith High School learners against the imposition of a US$600 increase to school fees. The deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe has resulted in severe difficulties for both teachers and learners, patients and healthcare workers. This strike should be a strong, united warning of expanded industrial action and protests.

For years, public sector workers in Zimbabwe, including nurses and teachers have been fighting for a basic salary of US$540 which would match the pre 2018 levels. In 2022, more than 100 000 teachers downed tools, bringing the education sector to a standstill as they refused to accept poverty wages.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the state implemented a US$75 allowance for teachers, which was later increased to US$300. The allowance was converted into a basic salary in the national budget for 2024, meaning that it would be subject to tax. As a result, teachers would end up taking home US$200 — US$260. At the same time, the economic decline in the country has led to increasing prices of basic goods which have reached new highs, for example a loaf of bread costs US$1.50, and 2 litres of cooking oil costs US$4.50. Thus the US$20 increase presented by the state is far below the demand for a minimum salary of US$1260 put forward by teachers.

There is an appetite for struggle within the oppressed masses in Zimbabwe as at least 40% of the population is locked in poverty. At the same time there are difficult challenges when it comes to genuine leadership for the masses. The state uses violence to crush opposing voices and attempts to infiltrate and dominate the workers movement. However, hunger and poverty keep chasing the people towards the path of revolt and mass action. Trade unions continue offering workers a crucial platform to organise against the onslaught from the state while the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) beset by internal conflicts, lies in ruin.

Since the August 2023 elections, the official opposition party, the CCC has stumbled from crisis to crisis, rendering it incapable of playing a meaningful role in the struggle. Despite the fact that the elections were full of irregularities and fell short of Zimbabwe’s constitutional requirements (as reported by the SADC observer mission deployed to monitor the fairness of the elections), the CCC still won more than 40% of seats in parliament owing to the mass support enjoyed by the party. However, the party’s “strategic ambiguity” opened it up to infiltration and this was exposed when an imposter posing as a party official dismissed several CCC members elected to office.

The Harare high court upheld the decision meaning that the members of parliament had to vacate their elected posts. Nelson Chamisa, CCC’s president has since resigned from the party, leaving it embroiled in factional battles and unable to intervene in the struggles waged by the people against the state. As yet another attempt to oppose the ZANU coup regime without an actual, revolutionary socialist alternative, has predictably failed, the ongoing strike also points towards the need for trade unions to begin to grapple with the long outstanding task of bringing together the forces for such a political alternative.

Although the state attempted to clamp down on private voluntary organisations ahead of the 2023 elections, and to impose limits on the duration of strikes, it has been impossible to silence trade unions, youth organisations and other structures based within working class and poor communities. These organisations have constantly taken up issues affecting the majority including the struggles to improve working conditions, reject exorbitant increases to education fees, and in defense of communities facing evictions at the hands of the state.

The ISA supports the call by FOZEU for teachers to go on strike on 20 March as well as to extend the action into the second term. Furthermore, we recognize that this struggle is not limited to teachers alone. Other public sector workers including lecturers and healthcare workers face the same exploitation at the hands of the state. It is unacceptable that state resources are looted by corrupt officials for personal gain while public services lie in ruin. The US$1260 put forward by FOZEU is achievable, if and only if a united struggle is conducted.

The warning 3 days strike action from March 20 must be followed by continuous mobilisations not just of teachers but as well as nurses and other public servants for a united struggle for a living wage for all workers in the country. A general strike including all workers is a necessary step in escalating the call for the commanding heights of the economy to be brought under democratic control of the majority.

Capitalism however, has a way of taking back from workers whatever gains that are made, leaving workers worse off. This is why workers must be in the forefront of the formation of Independent Zimbabwe Workers Party, that will provide the leadership with which to take on the entire ruling class as currently represented by the Emmerson Mnangagwa regime. Such a workers political platform unlike the CCC will build itself on the ideas of socialism and on coming to power, will immediately nationalize the commanding heights of the economy, under the management of the working people.

Instead of the country’s vast resources being used to fund lavish lifestyles for the rich, as is now being done in a new wave of imperialist and nepotistic looting of minerals such as lithium, these resources should be used to uplift the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans to ensure that all public sector workers are paid a minimum salary of US$1260 and that each child gets equal, quality education free of charge Furthermore, we call on the exploited masses of Zimbabwe to join in the struggle to:

  • End victimisation and intimidation of union members, workplace violence and abuse of workers’ rights
  • End the looting of public coffers by corrupt officials.
  • End the forced evictions, ensure that the land is made available to the people.
  • Increase the country’s productive capacity in order to create sustainable jobs.
  • Fight for increased investment into public services to ensure that workers receive a living salary and the support they need including additional staff and the equipment they need to perform their duties.
  • Fight for free education, healthcare, and accessible public housing.
  • Fight for an end to the tyranny of ZANU PF rule and capitalist exploitation.
  • Work towards the creation of a new political party, rooted in the workplaces, poor communities and educational institutions, democratically organised with worker wages and no privileges for elected officials, on a programme for the genuine socialist transformation of Zimbabwe, Africa and the world.

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