Teachers in Wedza, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga’s home area in Mashonaland East province, are reportedly being forced to join Zanu PF’s local structures and in-week meetings as the ruling party goes on a recruitment offensive ahead of 2023.
Affected teachers who spoke to Grazers News complained that the political interference was disrupting lessons and causing fear.
They said Zanu PF activists in the area were threatening to harm them if they resisted joining the party, bringing back memories of bloody elections in 2008 and 2013 when rural teachers were beaten up, tortured and, in some cases, killed for allegedly siding with the opposition.
A Chemhanza High School teacher who declined being named singled out a war veteran in the area, one Kahonde, who he said led a team of Zanu PF officials victimising them.
Kahonde, whose first name could not be immediately ascertained, was not picking calls on the number shared by our sources and his Whatsapp account indicated that he was last active on 23 January 2021.
“Yesterday (16 May 2021) Kahonde came to our school with three other officials. They then instructed us to move out of class and gather at the grounds for a meeting to create a Zanu PF cell structure at the school. They said we would lose our jobs if we resisted their wish,” he said.
He added that the ruling party activists described teachers in the area as “rebels”.
“Given the violence that has happened in the past, we are now living in fear and feel insecure,” he said.
Teachers at the Zana and Wedza high schools as well Chemhanza and Wedza primary learning centres also spoke out against the Zanu PF activists.
“Last week, most teachers, especially female ones, agreed to be placed in a Zanu PF cell structure but they did that unwillingly. A meeting was called during working hours and all teachers gathered at the playing grounds where their details were taken down,” said a teacher from Chemhanza primary school.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president, Obert Masaraure, confirmed that his organisation had received distress calls from schools in Wedza.
“The ARTUZ has received disturbing reports of teacher victimisation in Wedza district by an identified Zanu PF official, one individual named Kahonde who has been on terror campaign of moving around schools forcing teachers to force Zanu PF cells and threatening them with unspecified action (if they refused),” he said.
Masaraure said similar incidents had happened ahead of the 2008 elections.
That year, widespread political violence broke out immediately after the late president, Robert Mugabe, lost the March presidential poll to the Movement for Democratic Change’s Morgan Tsvangirai.
It took about a month before the electoral commission announced the results and, when it did, Tsvangirai was in the lead but had not garnered enough votes to form a government on his own.
This forced forcing a run-off that was preceded by systematic violence led by ruling party militias, politicians and the security sector, claiming at least 400 lives, according to the opposition.
Teachers were hounded out of schools, which were turned into torture bases.
“ARTUZ is worried that this situation will further degenerate into chaos and violence as witnessed in the past. Teachers have been abducted, tortured or even killed for not supporting Zanu PF,” said Masaraure.
Zimbabwe is set for the next general elections in 2023.
The last elections were held in 2018 and Tsvangirai’s replacement, Nelson Chamisa, lost narrowly and challenged the results in court but lost.
Tafadzwa Mugwadi, the Zanu PF communications director, dismissed the reports but confirmed his party was on a restructuring exercise.
“Zanu PF is leading its internal restructuring exercise which is aimed at recruiting 5 million members ahead of 2023 elections. That process is free of force or any form of violence and shenanigans whatsoever,” he said.
“We have not received any such reports that any of our members are forcing people to join,” he added.
He said the ruling party was educating its membership, through the Chitepo School of Ideology, to desist from using violence on the electorate.
Mugwadi claimed that Zanu PF had received “several tens of thousands of member defecting to Zanu PF including high profile former opposition members such that there is certainly no reason to force any one.”
“There are no such victimisations happening. We hope this is not another social media hoax,” said Mugwadi.