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Students Latest To Deliver Ultimatum To Zimbabwean Government


The Zimbabwe National Students Union has laid down a Feb. 13 deadline for Harare take action on crushing university tuition fees, warning that if the government does not address the crisis in higher education it will call nationwide protests.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported on a news conference called Friday by ZINASU President Promise Mkwananzi in Harare.

From Washington, reporter Patience Rusere interviewed Mkwananci on the issues on the table between his union and the government, and on his strategy with respect to widening labor unrest over the continuing erosion of living standards by inflation.

Elsewhere, teachers belonging to the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe were in a "go-slow" mode this week ahead of a strike that seems likely to begin Monday.

There has been no indication of compromise from the government to demands for a major pay increase to allow teachers to subsist in the face of 1,200% inflation.

But primary school pupils and parents have also been affected by the turmoil within the country's education system, as Loirdham Moyo reported from Mutare.

In a related development, police in Chipinge, Manicaland Province, briefly detained three teachers from the Gaza Secondary School, accusing them of backing the strike call by Progressive Teachers Union General Secretary Raymond Majongwe.

The three were released after their lawyers became involved. But police warned them not to heed the call for a strike, describing the PTUZ as anti-government, and said they would monitor their movements and observe with whom they met.

Members of the union initiated a slowdown strike after rejecting the 300% salary rise offered by the government to all public workers after the turn of the year. Union chief Majongwe went into hiding this week after detectives showed up at his home.

At Harare's Parirenyatwa Hospital, crippled since late December by a strike launched by resident doctors, sources said four nurses were detained by police in connection with their strike. One said nurses went back to work for fear of police sanctions.

Spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena of the Zimbabwe Republic Police said he had no information regarding the alleged detention of the striking nurses.

Doctors continued with their strike, now in its seventh week. Medical sources said the doctors were pursuing negotiations with health advisors to President Robert Mugabe, but said nothing tangible has emerged from those discussions.

University of Zimbabwe lecturers and non-academic staff were set to go on strike next week. University Teachers Association President James Mhlaule said his organization gave the government until the close of business on Friday to negotiate with university staff to avoid a strike. Mhlaule said University of Zimbabwe staff association members would meet on Monday to finalize their plans to go on strike.

Lecturers and other staff at institutions of higher learning in Bulawayo, Chinhoyi and Midlands vowed to continue their strikes until their grievances were addressed.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

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