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Teachers Again Targets of Intimidation in Zimbabwe Constitutional Revision Process

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe charged that a new wave of violence is rising against teachers under 'Operation Vharamuromo,' Shona for 'Operation Close Your Mouth' intended to suppress non-ZANU-PF views

Zimbabwean teachers unions said their members have again as in 2008 become targets of political violence intended to silence them in the country's ongoing constitutional revision public outreach process.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe charged that a new wave of violence is rising against teachers under an operation alleged to be mounted by the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe called "Operation Vharamuromo," Shona for "Operation Close Your Mouth" intended to suppress non-ZANU-PF views.

The union has accused the Ministry of Education of failing to speak out about the alleged intimidation of and violence against rural teachers, who were politically targeted during the turbulent 2008 election period.

The PTUZ has appealed to the leaders of the three parties in the national unity government in power since early 2009 to protect teachers as the public comment process continues.

Ironically, three teachers and an employee of the Haskett Primary school in Karoi, Mashonaland West province, were in Karoi magistrates court on Monday facing assault charges. They were accused of assaulting a ZANU-PF activist after they were ejected from a constitutional outreach meeting last Thursday.

PTUZ Programs and Communications Officer Oswald Madziwa said the four accused - Innocent Nyoni, Rodney Matsaure, Patrick Murira and Clifford Muchingami - will be back in court on August 16. He told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that they had insisted that their views be heard during area outreach meetings.

He said the teachers were chased out of the meeting and ZANU-PF supporters caught up with them the next day at a drinking place where the assault is alleged to have taken place.

Madziwa said teachers countrywide are being harassed by ZANU-PF supporters at meetings and ejected on the pretext they do not come from the constituencies where meetings are held.

Elsewhere, civil society organizations in Matabeleland region said they are unhappy with how the outreach is unfolding there.Under the umbrella of the Matabeleland Civil Society Consortium, the groups have voiced their grievances in writing to the parliamentary select committee heading the constitutional revision process.

Sources said a meeting was set for Thursday between the groups and the committee.

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association Coordinator Roderick Fayayo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the committee is not disseminating information well, leading to poor turnout at meetings.

Select Committee Co-Chairman Douglas Mwonzora said people in Matebeleland miss important information about the sessions as they do not want to read the state newspapers in which his panel has placed ads.