Mugabe militias 'forcing teachers from their jobs'

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The Independent Online

Tens of thousands of Zimbabwean schoolteachers have been kidnapped and tortured, or driven from their homes in political violence in the past year by the ruling Zanu-PF party, according to a leading teachers' union.

More than 20,000 teachers had been kidnapped and tortured, and at least 14,000 rural schoolteachers, accused of being opposition supporters, had been displaced and were unable to attend the start of the new school term last week, according to a report by the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ). It also said 190 female teachers had been raped.

The PTUZ said many teachers were being forced to pay "protection fees", and had recorded at least 107,503 instances in the past year in which teachers had been forced to pay money to youth militias and war veterans in exchange for their freedom.

Takavafira Zhou, the president of the PTUZ, said most of the displaced teachers had refused to go back to their schools and wanted to move to schools in urban areas. Some wanted to go abroad, while others had left the profession."What we don't understand is why all this violence against teachers is continuing long after the presidential election is finished," he said. "It seems the government does not realise that without teachers, there is no future for this country."

In one instance two weeks ago, 47 teachers at schools in Makoni North constituency, 100 miles east of Harare, were "fired" by militant war veterans, who accused them of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), according to a report in the independent Daily News. Mr Zhou said government supporters wrongly accused teachers of being anti-Zanu-PF. "Teachers find themselves having to articulate and explain issues to the illiterate rural communities they operate in. By so doing they are wrongly accused of being political commissars of the opposition," he said.

A coalition of human rights groups, the Human Rights NGO Forum, said this week that political violence had continued unabated since the presidential election in March. It had documented one death, 16 cases of torture and two kidnappings during the last two weeks of April alone.

The attacks on white farmers has also continued. Patrick Hyde and his wife, Sue, were assaulted while their home was looted by a group of 30 war veterans in the presence of police officers on Tuesday, the Commercial Farmers Union said. The couple have since been evicted from their farm in Mvurwi, 40 miles south-west of Harare.

Zimbabwe's parliament passed a law this week giving the government immediate control of white-owned farms targeted for confiscation. Parliament was recalled on Tuesday to pass the Land Acquisition Amendment Act, which takes away the right of a farmer to contest the acquisition of their land in the courts. The Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, said the law was meant to advance Zimbabwe's "land revolution".