BY TATENDA CHITAGU/BRENNA MATENDERE

THREE members of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) were arrested yesterday following a demonstration at the Mucheke district education offices in Masvingo where they handed a petition demanding salaries in United States dollars, while rejecting the recent 50% salary hike offered by government last week.

The teachers had vowed to sleep at the education offices before they were arrested. Among them was Artuz gender secretary for Masvingo provinc,e Sheila Chirisamhuru.

The demonstration by Artuz started around 9:30am in Mucheke A high-density suburb where the district education offices are located.

The placard-waving teachers were singing and toyi-toying, saying their salaries were now a pittance. Some of the placards read: “Rest in peace my ZWL salary”, “Go well my bond salary”.

They also carried mock coffins.

They handed their petition to education officials which read: “We are perturbed about the so-called 50% ZW salary increment instead of total reinstatement of our US$520 salaries as per our 2013 agreement, considering that the level of inflation in Zimbabwe has conservatively risen to around 800%. We realise the economy has re-dollarised and providers of goods and services are now demanding payment in a more stable currency of US dollar yet teachers’ meagre salaries are less than US$25, dominated in the volatile Zimbabwean dollar.”

They argued that the US$75 COVID-19 allowance offered by government could not be regarded as a salary increment, adding that their salaries’ purchasing power should be restored to October 2017 levels.

Artuz said the Masvingo protests marked the start of their national protests for US dollar salaries.

Artuz national spokesperson Nation Mudzitirwa confirmed Chirisamhuru’s arrest.

“She is currently detained at Chikato Police Station. No charge has yet been placed against her,” he said.

“Artuz has approached the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to provide a lawyer to help the arrested comrade.”

“We condemn the arrest of our cde by Zimbabwe Republic Police. We take it as a direct attack on the workers who were exercising their constitutional right in demanding a decent living wage.

“The protests will continue in every province in the country until the employer pays us US$520 monthly salary,” Mudzitirwa said.

The trio’s lawyer Martin Mureri of ZLHR said: “I can confirm the arrest of my three clients who are members of Artuz. Two of them have been released with no charges preferred against them, save for Sheila Chirisamhuru. She is being charged with public violence and she is expected to go to court tomorrow. She is denying the charges.”

Masvingo provincial police spokesperson Chief Inspector Charity Mazula professed ignorance of the arrests.

“Am in the dark about it. I don’t know of that,” she said.

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