Teaching them a lesson: A report on the attack on Zimbabwean teachers

The attack of teachers has been ongoing against the backdrop of violence being perpetrated against civil servants (including district administrators, and nurses) by ruling party (Zanu PF) supporters, "war veterans" and the youth militia. Violence against teachers has continued unabated since June 2000. Violence against teachers has been concentrated in the rural communities where teachers are rightfully considered to be a group that has considerable influence on the communities in which they live. The reported attacks on teachers who support or are suspected of supporting the MDC seems to be a way of limiting their political influence on the rural populace. In July 2001 two ministers are alleged to have issued death threats against student leaders and their principals for supporting the opposition MDC. The threats were issued at a meeting between the ministers, student leaders and principals from Masvingo, Bondolfi and Morgenster teacher training colleges, Masvingo Technical College and Mushagashe Vocational Training College. The meeting was told that the only way that their safety could be guaranteed is if they supported Zanu PF. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stan Mudenge reportedly said:
"You are going to lose your jobs if you support opposition political parties in the presidential election. As civil servants, you have to be loyal to the government of the day. You can even be killed for supporting the opposition and no one would guarantee your safety." (1)

The Minister of Education, Sports and Culture told the meeting that:

"We cannot continue to pay our enemies. People have to know which side of their bread is buttered"

The threats came a month after the Deputy Minister of Education, Sports and Culture allegedly said that his ministry would not provide security to teachers affected by violence for supporting the opposition. (2) The threats by the two ministers were seen by ZIMCET Executive Director, David Chimhini, as having exposed civil servants to possible attacks by ZanuPF supporters.

The brutal attack on teachers has had far reaching consequences that go beyond the teachers themselves. Violence also affects the schoolchildren, when, in some instances, they are made to witness scenes of extreme violence such as beatings and torture. Schoolchildren may experience behavioural and emotional reactions after their experience of violence against their teachers, who are supposed to be their guardians in the school environment. The Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT) says that 'a climate created by on-going organised violence can also produce generalised feelings of insecurity and uncertainty for children, thus making it impossible for children and youth to feel that they have a future'.

In some instances, school children have become victims during attacks on their schools. In the Midlands province, pupils from five schools were allegedly abducted and taken for re-education classes by "war veterans" and Zanu PF supporters. At Chomuwuya High School "war veterans" reportedly disrupted a prize giving ceremony in October 2001, while in Masvingo "war veterans" are alleged to have disrupted lessons at Rusitu High School. Therefore the addressing of violence against teachers is not only directly beneficial to the victims, but also for the schoolchildren who are also victims indirectly.

This report documents 238 individual cases of human rights abuses against teachers for the 18 month period between January 2001 and June 2002. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum believes the documented evidence that it has collected is merely the tip of a much bigger iceberg, and would wish to draw attention to the many previous cases reported in earlier reports of the Forum. We would also wish to draw attention to these many previous reports, and to note that a communication from the Forum is currently under consideration by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. As the Presidents of South Africa and Nigeria and the Prime Minister of Australia meet in Abuja on Monday, 23 September, to consider the Commonwealth's response to the Zimbabwe crisis, we hope that they will take into account this new report, as well as all the previous reports, including those specifically submitted to the Abuja initiatives.

Totals 1 January 2001 to 31 June 2002

Note to the tables


All cases of torture fall under the definition of torture according to the general definition given in the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment. The four elements of torture are:

1. Severe pain and suffering, whether physical or mental

2. Intentionally inflicted

3. With a purpose

4. By a state official or another individual acting with the acquiescence of the State.

Those individuals referred to in point # 4 include the ZRP, ZNA, ZPS and the ZNLWVA (as a reserve force of the ZNA) and by any other grouping when directly sanctioned by the state.

Unlawful arrest and detention:

Arrest by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) with no reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed. Detention thereafter for a period exceeding 48 hours without access to redress through the courts or subsequent release without charge.


A kidnapping by a member(s) of an organised group that is not the ZRP organisation eg. Political party, ZNLWVA, ZNA, MDC, Zanu PF etc


Kidnapped persons whose whereabouts remained unknown at the time of reporting. Their whereabouts have still to be ascertained through follow –up reports or further investigation.

Property related

These are incidents in which property rights have been violated. This includes arson, property damage and destruction and theft.

Key Abbreviations

CIO- Central Intelligence Organisation MDC- Movement for Democratic Change MP- Member of Parliament

NCA- National Constitutional Assembly UMP – Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe

ZNLWVA- Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association ZNA- Zimbabwe National Army

ZRP- Zimbabwe Republic Police

Zanu PF- Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front

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