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Mugabe Faces Probe For Forcing Pupils To Rallies

Mugabe Faces Probe For Forcing Pupils To Rallies
THE ZIMBABWE Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) is once again pursuing the First Family for reportedly commandeering schoolchildren to attend their political events after the Amalgamated Rural Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) lodged a complaint.

In its letter of complaint, ARTUZ cited rallies addressed by First Lady Grace Mugabe and President Robert Mugabe.

ARTUZ claimed schoolchildren were exposed to unimaginable hate speech and inflammatory language, tribalism, racism and vulgarities.

Although the ARTUZ leadership confirmed that they had been invited to provide further details yesterday, ZHRC said the matter was not for discussion in the media.

"Unfortunately, I will not be able to comment because I was on leave.
"However, when investigating cases, we don't normally reveal to the media," ZHRC deputy chairperson Ellen Sithole said.

ARTUZ president Obert Masaraura said after they lodged the complaint, ZHRC asked them to provide further details.

"We attended a meeting upon their request at their head office.

"They were consulting further with other teachers' unions to establish the serious concerns we raised and shared across the unions," he told NewsDay yesterday.

"As a union, we are pleased with the work being done by the commission, but we will not solely rely on them.

"We have launched a parallel safe schools campaign, where we are educating communities to rise and defend the rights of children and further protect school property from abuse."

Masaraura said ZHRC was visiting parts of the country to ascertain the veracity of the claims.

In their letter of complaint filed in July, ARTUZ said what Zanu-PF was doing violated section 81 of the Constitution, which provides for the fundamental rights of children and guarantees their protection from being "compelled to take part in any political activity".

ARTUZ cited the "Zezuru unconquerable" song, which was popular at one of Grace's rallies in Chiweshe, as highly inflammatory and tribal.

They also said when attending these rallies, schoolchildren were forced to skip classes, undermining their right to education as protected by section 75 of the Constitution, as well as other international declarations, which Zimbabwe is party to.

"Besides compelling children to attend political activities, Zanu-PF, especially its first secretary Robert Mugabe and women's league secretary Grace Mugabe, abuse school property such as desks, grounds, motor vehicles and money to sponsor the logistics of their events."

Zanu-PF is presently holding youth rallies across the country, where pupils and school buses have become permanent features.

In Mashonaland Central, at Kanyemba Secondary School, ARTUZ approximated that 1 000 pupils were forced to attend Grace's rally on December 2 last year.

On February 23 last year, ARTUZ said about 1 200 children from St John's Primary School were affected, while 28 000 children were affected in all public schools in Bulawayo for Mugabe's rally.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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