BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Africa
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Tuesday, 6 June, 2000, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Zimbabwe fear spreads
Members of War Veterans' Association
The "war veterans" have now turned their attention to teachers
Schoolteachers and judges in Zimbabwe fear they are becoming the latest targets of President Robert Mugabe's government and party.

In the last fortnight, supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party have attacked schools, after a cabinet minister accused teachers of "polluting the minds" of young people.

Our school head advised us to cover ourselves, so we all bought Zanu-PF membership cards

And the government has told white judges that they are not qualified to preside over Zimbabwean courts - a comment which has prompted fears of interference in judicial independence.

The Zimbabwe Teachers Association says at least 200 schools have been disrupted by intimidation and attacks.

In the Eastern Highlands town of Chimanimani, the self-styled war veterans who support President Mugabe moved into secondary and primary schools, dragging the teachers from their classrooms.

Several teachers were beaten, some to the point of unconsciousness, and needed hospital treatment.

Other teachers, accused of being opposition MDC supporters were stripped naked in front of their students.

In previous Zimbabwe elections, schools have been used as polling stations and teachers employed as polling officers.

Some commentators believe that teachers are perceived to be capable of influencing the outcome of the election - which is why Zanu-PF supporters are targeting them at a time when a crucial election is approaching.

'Barbaric' attacks

A teacher at a Midlands school which was the target of an attack said the only way to remain safe was to feign support for the ruling party.

"Our school head advised us to cover ourselves, so we all bought Zanu-PF membership cards," he said.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe blames the government for what the union calls "unwarranted, barbaric and nefarious" attacks.

No sane Zimbabwean should expect the judiciary to be headed by a foreigner - especially a British - 20 years after our independence

Government spokesman Jonathan Moyo
Recently Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa accused teachers of "polluting the minds" of young people.

Staff at health clinics have also been targeted, with opposition supporters who have been injured in political violence being prevented from entering clinics.

Judges under fire

The government used the state-owned media at the weekend to attack the white judges who comprise a substantial proportion of Zimbabwe's still independent judiciary.

The government's relationship with the courts has deteriorated over the past year, to the point where it disregarded two court orders to act against the illegal occupation of farmland by Zanu-PF supporters.

Government spokesman Jonathan Moyo said white judges who held foreign citizenship were not qualified to preside over Zimbabwean courts.

"No sane Zimbabwean should expect the judiciary to be headed by a foreigner - especially a British - 20 years after our independence, just like it would be insane to have a foreign or British president or speaker of parliament," he said in the state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper

Two of Zimbabwe's five supreme court judges are white, including Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay. Four of the 20 high court judges are white.

Mr Moyo's remarks have prompted speculation that the government might move to remove the white judges from their posts - an action which would destroy the principle of an independent judiciary.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

01 Jun 00 | Africa
Fifth white farmer killed
19 May 00 | Africa
EU to observe Zimbabwe campaign
15 May 00 | Africa
What can the Commonwealth do?
16 May 00 | Africa
Tough test for Zanu-PF
Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories