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Teachers' Union Leader Arrested in Zimbabwe - 2002-10-10

The leader of a small teachers' union in Zimbabwe has been arrested, and his lawyers say he has been badly beaten by police, as a strike called by his union continues.

The lawyers say union leader Raymond Majongwe was arrested Wednesday, and had been severely injured by the time they saw him that evening. In addition, they say police assaulted members of his family when they searched his house in Harare.

The small 15,000-member Progressive Teachers Union called a strike demanding pay increases in line with the rest of the civil service. There are more than 100,000 teachers in Zimbabwe, most of them members of a different union, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association.

The government says the teachers' strike is illegal and has failed to attract a significant number of supporters. Officials also say union leaders, including Mr. Majongwe, have tried to intimidate teachers into going on strike.

The Union claims it is the government that is trying to intimidate teachers not to join the strike.

The Union's spokesman, Macdonald Mangauzani, says it is difficult to know just how widespread the strike is because most of the country's schools are in rural areas and communication is difficult. But he claims the strike is spreading in spite of police intimidation.

Many teachers are reported to be going to work but not actually teaching.

Several teachers were killed, and many more injured or forced to flee their homes ahead of presidential elections in March. The government accused the teachers of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Zimbabwe's teachers are paid half what nurses earn, and are demanding an increase of more than 100 percent.