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Fired Zimbabwe Deputy Minister Aplogizes for Attempting to Forcibly Remove Shona-Speaking Teacher from Matabeleland

Simelisizwe Sibanda
Simelisizwe Sibanda

Former Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, who attempted to press education officials to sack a school teacher for lack of proficiency in a local language in Matabeleland, has apologized saying he regrets that he let President Emmerson Mnangagwa down.

In a statement, Simelisizwe Sibanda, who was fired yesterday, said, “I understand that my approach to addressing the issue of a teacher's language proficiency was misguided and inappropriate, leading to perceptions of tribalism. I want to assure the public and especially the teachers that my intention was solely to ensure that our children receive quality education, and I was concerned about the teacher's ability to communicate effectively with her students. However, as a national leader, I should have addressed this issue through appropriate channels, avoiding public platforms that may have fueled the tribal connotations.”

Sibanda noted that his approach was unprofessional and therefore “I understand that my actions may have perpetuated tribal divisions, and for that, I truly apologise to the whole teaching fraternity and nation at large. I want to assure the public that my commitment to our nation's unity and development has always been genuine.”

He also appealed for sympathy from his ruling Zanu PF party, stressing that “I understand the party's values of unity and inclusivity, and I regret any harm caused by my lack of judgement. I hope that the party and its members will accept my sincere apologies and recognize my commitment to our nation's progress.”

His remarks came at a time some people in Matabeleland region are complaining that teachers like Winnet Mharadze of Clonnmore Primary School in Bubi District are allegedly imparting improper education at schools in Early Chilhood Development lessons.

They argue that only people proficient in local languages can teach children at infant level.

In 2022, education secretary Thumisang Thabela said the government is addressing the issue and expectations were high that such teachers will be removed from some schools nationwide and redeployed in appropriate regions.

At that time, she noted that there was a critical shortage of teachers in Zimbabwe.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday fired deputy education minister Simelisizwe Sibanda, who allegedly told Clonnmore Primary School to sack Shona-speaking Early Childhood Development teacher Winnet Mharadze. Sibanda was allegedly infuriated that Mharadze could hardly speak the local language while teaching children at infancy education level. This has been an issue that has troubled Matabeleland activists who have demanded that school kids at a low level should be taught by teachers capable of giving instructions in local languages

Simelisizwe Sibanda has apologised. This follows his sacking yesterday by President Emmerson Mnangagwa for directing a head teacher of a primary school in Bubi District to transfer a female Shona teacher who was teaching ECD class and not conversant in local Ndebele language.