Statement on ARTUZ & Veritas’ litigation for safe schools

Today, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), together with our partners Veritas, filed an urgent application in the Masvingo High Court under Case No. HC 297/18 which seeks to ensure that ZANU PF and the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education comply with the order granted by the High Court in HC 263/18 on 28th June 2018 which barred them from doing the following:

  • Asking, encouraging or forcing children in schools from attending political rallies,
  • Forcing teachers to attend rallies or to make financial contributions towards rallies
  • Using school property for rallies including school grounds, buses, furniture etc

ZANU PF appealed to the Supreme Court against the order of the High Court on the basis that they are now a reformed party and there is no evidence of them doing these things any more. However, since filing their appeal, ZANU PF have perpetrated all of the violations outlined above. The violations are comprehensively documented in ARTUZ’s latest application (particularly at paragraph 17 with all its sub-paragraphs and Annexures. Just some of the violations documented in the application include the following:

  • On Friday 6th July 2018, ZANUPF held a rally at Mapfungautsi Primary School in Gokwe. Children were made to attend the rally during school hours disrupting their education. School buses were used to ferry people to the rally.
  • On Saturday 7th July 2018, ZANU PF held a rally on the grounds of Leibenburg High School. All teachers in Chiomba District were required to be there as per a directive from the District Schools Inspector.
  • On Saturday 7th July 2018 2018, ZANU PF commandeered buses from schools to ferry people to its rally in Bindura. The Chairperson of the School Development Committee of Umvukwesi Primary School in Mvurwi confirmed that the bus was taken without their permission and that no payment was made for the hire of the bus.
  • On Monday 9 th July, a ZANU PF rally was conducted at Gwingwizha Primary School during during school hours. ZANU PF took benches out of the classrooms so that children had nothing to sit on disrupting the children’s end-of-term examinations which they were meant to write that day.

ARTUZ and Veritas’s latest application, which was filed this morning by our lawyer Doug Coltart of Mtetwa & Nyambirai, seeks to put a stop to these violations by obtaining leave to execute pending appeal. In essence, if it is granted, the High Court order in HC 263/18 will remain in force until the appeal is determined. We expect the urgent chamber application to be set down for hearing within a few days. The Supreme Court appeal is scheduled to be heard on 27th July 2018.

It is important to note that the High Court order is not a blanket ban on children attending rallies. Parents may still take their children to rallies of any political party outside of school hours. The court order seeks to stop children being taken out of school to go to rallies. This is because it is in the best interests of children to remain in school and pursue their education. This sentiment is shared by the United Nations which issued a statement in support of the High Court order on 3rd July 2018. The Court order also seeks to protect school property and teachers from political exploitation.

The application also does not have any political agenda. It is purely about protecting the rights of children, teachers and parents. A temporary interdict was granted against ZANU PF in particular because there was evidence of that party colluding with Government authorities to take children to rallies during school hours, forcing teachers to attend, and commandeering school property for its rallies.

However, the final order will include a declaratory order stating that NO political parties are allowed to do any of the restrained activities, so that even if there is a change of Government this issue is dealt with once and for all, and our schools remain safe havens for our children to pursue their educational advancement.

Source: Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ)

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