The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) says it is planning a countrywide march in protest against the high cost of school uniforms which are currently being sold in United States (US) dollars.
In an interview with the Mail and Telegraph on Thursday, PTUZ secretary general Raymond Majongwe said the protest was necessary as teachers were being paid using Real Time Gross Settlements (RTGS) making access to foreign currency virtually impossible.
“Our management has okayed that move because it appears all teachers who have kids who are going to school will not be able to clothe their children with decent uniforms this term because the uniforms are being sold in US dollars and we are getting paid in RTGS salaries so we are actually making our formal application to the police tomorrow,” he said.
Majongwe said the government was capable of meeting the demands of the teachers, who want to be paid in US dollars.
“I think there is no political will, if these guys work flat out, there are lots of avenues in which they can bring in the US dollar,” he said.
Majongwe said the planned march was an “attack on both fronts” against the government and the retailers.
Images have been circulating on social media showing the exorbitant costs of school uniforms.
Sandringham High School is apparently quoting Form One uniforms at US$773 or $3095 in local currency.
Some media outlets have reported Monte Cassino High School uniform costs $1 692 or US$423 while those of St Faith’s Boys High School cost $1 060.
Majongwe said the high charges were completely unjustified as retailers were acquiring their goods locally.
“They are getting materials from Kadoma and now you want to charge US$10 for a sun hat,” he fumed.
The teachers’ organisation joins doctors and nurses who have taken up industrial action to demand payment in US dollars.
In an exclusive interview with the Mail and Telegraph, economist Eddie Cross said he believed the government simply did not have the capacity to meet that demand and that the alternative was to float the local currency which he expected Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube to announce next week.
“I do not think the government can do that, I do not think the country can do it and I think what the alternative is that the minister of finance in his monetary statement next week, he will float the local currency, which means he will remove exchange control and he will formally separate the RTGS dollar from the US dollar and there will be a formal market conducted by the commercial banks,” he said then.
Cross said that this would effectively stabilise prices and salaries could be adjusted in the local currency.
“That will establish a market for the local currency and I would expect it would be about 2:1 and I think that will steady prices, it will bring prices down and then the discussion will move to adjusting salaries,” he said.