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Militant Zimbabwe Teachers Union Claims Success in Nationwide Strike

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said some union members in rural areas are being intimidated by the police, ZANU PF militia and headmasters for engaging in the strike

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said Wednesday that teachers in large numbers heeded its call for a strike to back up salary demands, claiming an adhesion rate of 85 percent in state schools in rural areas and 54 percent in urban schools.

But the rival Zimbabwe Teachers Association dismissed the claim of wide participation as did teachers and headmasters reached in seven of the country's 10 provinces.

PTUZ President Takavafira Zhou said a survey in various schools indicated most striking teachers were engaged in sit-ins at the workplace. He said some union members in rural areas were being intimidated by administrators, the police, and youth militia members.

“Several teachers have been threatened for merely distributing our circulars, five teachers have been transfer-listed by a rogue headmaster in Masvingo, one teacher has been beaten up in Rushinga while police are harassing the PTUZ leadership,” he said.

Zhou said most teachers in urban areas did not participate in the strike because they are receiving monthly incentives of US$40 to US$400 from schools and parents.

But ZIMTA Chief Executive Sifiso Ndlovu accused PTUZ, with its membership of 14,000 teachers, of misleading the nation. “Our teachers nationwide are at work as usual and will do so until we declare a salary deadlock,” Ndlovu declared.

Headmasters and teachers in most parts of Zimbabwe said the situation was normal. A teacher in Victoria Falls who spoke with a VOA reporter on condition she not be named said none of her colleagues were on strike, saying the exercise was futile.

President Robert Mugabe promised to give state workers a pay rise in June but Finance Minister Tendai Biti has flatly rejected any salary increase saying a raise is not possible until 75,000 "ghost workers" are removed from state payrolls and the Treasury receives its share of proceeds from the Marange diamond field in the country's east.