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Zimbabwe Teachers Union Comes Off Sidelines With Partial Strike Call

Officers and hundreds of members of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe met in Harare on Friday and resolved to stay away from work two days a week though continuing to give lessons the other three in a partial strike

The decision was seen as a compromise between PTUZ officials and rank-and-file members, many of whom are said to have already joined a strike called on Wednesday, the first day of a new term in the national school system, by the rival Zimbabwe Teachers Association.

PTUZ officials had hoped that with Education Minister David Coltart out of the country on business related to the Southern African Development Community summit opening Monday, Finance Minister Tendai Biti would meet with teachers to discuss their wage demands.

The Zimbabwe Teachers Association has demanded an increase in teachers salaries of some US$150 currently to US$700, which the government says it cannot afford.

But Biti sent word that as Coltart could not attend the meeting he did not consider that it would be appropriate for him to engage the union by himself.

PTUZ General Secretary Raymond Majongwe urged his members not to heed the ZIMTA call to completely boycott classes, correspondent Fazila Mahomed reported from Harare.

Union members ultimately resolved to stay away from classes on Thursdays and Fridays but to continue teaching Monday through Wednesday.

After the meeting, hundreds of teachers tried to march to the Ministry of Education but police barred the way. Union leader Majongwe said police demanded he go with them to the Harare Central Police Station, but he refused. Police then left and the teachers dispersed, he said.

PTUZ Mashonaland West Provincial Chairman Rosten Mutapa told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the union did not want to shut down schools which would penalize students and parents, but needed to send a message to the government.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...