Education International
Education International

Zimbabwe: Government to pay relocation expenses to higher education teachers

published 5 July 2013 updated 9 July 2013

The College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe (COLAZ), one of EI’s national affiliates, has commented on the payment ordered by a court of US$5.3 million by the Government to 18 discretionarily transferred lecturers. COLAZ represented the latter in Court.

Illegal transfers of teachers

The payment is to cover for the teachers’ relocation expenses and interest, as they were unilaterally transferred in 2012 over various allegations, including of them participating in industrial action.

The workers argued that the relocation expenses, covering breakfast, lunch, dinner and additional allowances, were calculated following agreed travelling and subsistence rates for higher and tertiary education staff.

Strongly opposing the transfers, they stressed that the Government had breached Section 13 (2) of the Public Service Commission regulations, as the transfers were never planned.

They also condemned the fact that the impartiality principle had not been respected in imposing penalties, as for the same offences some teachers were fined while others were transferred.

The Labour Court ordered the Government, represented by Higher and Tertiary Education Permanent Secretary, Dr Washington Mbizvo, to declare the transfers void and meet all relocation expenses, each lecturer getting a minimum of US$10,500.

Labour Court senior President, Betty Chidziva, found that the Government disregarded the Court’s decision after the latter had ordered the employer to pay each lecturer an average of US$297,000. In her judgment, she said that the Government had failed to explain why it did not comply with the court order and never sought to apply for its suspension.

Chidziva ruled that civil servants were entitled to be consulted before transfer and should have been granted a lengthy notice period.

The penalties imposed on the college teachers arose from a six-day countrywide strike in 2011 with was organised by COLAZ to force the Government to review college lecturers’ salaries and working conditions.

A victory for all Zimbabwe’s workers

“This court decision represents an immense victory, not only for COLAZ, but for all governmental workers in Zimbabwe,” said COLAZ President, David Dzatsunga.

‘Our claim that the Government of Zimbabwe is guilty of abuse of its workers’ rights through politically appointed managers who act with impunity was acknowledged”, he added.

Dzatsunga went on to say that “the stubborn, illegal and vindictive decision by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education to transfer COLAZ national and branch executive members was a calculated, but eventually vain, attempt to destroy the trade union. We appreciate the tremendous work of our lawyers from the Zimbabwe Labour Center, in particular our legal counsel Comrade, Tawanda Katsuro, who won every legal case he handled on our behalf.”

He also specifically commended another EI national affiliate, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, for mentoring his union and providing a monetary grant that helped to give financial assistance to the transferees.

“That COLAZ membership of EI was decided upon during this trial and helped widen our network of friends, with CAUT in particular having provided technical and financial support to the union in terms of capacity-building,” he acknowledged. “We have every hope that this verdict will contribute to ending the culture of fear that prompted membership’s apathy. We see it as an opportunity to rejuvenate the union, increase our membership and advance our causes as workers. It also gives hope to 12 other lecturers whose cases are still pending.”

“While this victory is by no means the end of our challenges, it is certainly a major step in our collective struggle to democratise the labour environment in Zimbabwe,” Dzatsunga stressed.

Respect for educators’ human and trade union rights

“Zimbabwe’s public authorities must show respect for the human and trade union rights of teachers at all education levels,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Teachers can simply not be arbitrarily transferred and separated from their family for making legitimate demands.”

He also emphasised that the Government must invest in education and has a responsibility to ensure that free public quality education is provided to all in the country.