SUPPORT FOR DEMOCRACY IN ZIMBABWE
WHEREAS, two years ago, at its 2008 national convention, the American Federation of Teachers dedicated its Bayard Rustin Human Rights Award to the teachers of the Republic of Zimbabwe. The award was given in recognition of the Zimbabwean teachers who served as poll watchers during the March 2008 national elections. Thousands of teachers served as election agents at polling stations throughout the country to help ensure that the elections were free, fair and transparent and not marred by ballot stuffing, false reporting and fraudulent voting. For this simple act, teachers, along with other unionists, human rights workers and political activists, became the targets of repression by the regime of Robert Mugabe. Hundreds of teachers were condemned, arrested, tortured and driven from their homes. The presidents of Zimbabwe's two largest teachers unions, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) and the Professional Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), accepted the Rustin Award on behalf of the "teachers of Zimbabwe"; and
WHEREAS, as acknowledged in a 2008 AFT resolution on Zimbabwe, the continuing "deterioration of political freedoms, human rights, labor rights and economic conditions" were the product of a decade of tyranny and repression by the brutal regime of President Mugabe. Since the beginning of the new century, the country's once-enviable education system, public service and health system and economy have been in free fall, and hyperinflation has caused hardships and unemployment to hit all but the richest of Zimbabweans; and
WHEREAS, the 2008 national election was seen as a potential peaceful and democratic means to rid the country of the Mugabe regime and to end the corruption and repression that so dominated political and civic life. However, through election manipulation and violence, Mugabe was able to control the first round of voting in March 2008 and then use violence and terror to force his primary opposition, MDC Morgan Tsvangirai, to drop out of the second round of voting; and
WHEREAS, since 2008, the AFT, along with the Education International and other national teachers' unions, has extended assistance to the ZIMTA and the PTUZ to help them continue their efforts to represent Zimbabwe teachers and their students. During the worst of the economic crisis and hyperinflation, teachers went unpaid for months. The AFT contributed to the legal defense of teachers who had been jailed for their opposition to the Mugabe regime and helped the unions maintain communications among their branches. Also, in a joint project with the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU), the AFT has facilitated joint action by the PTUZ and ZIMTA to push for the adoption of a new—democratic—constitution for the nation to include protections for union rights of teachers and other workers and for the rights of all of Zimbabwe's children to education. The constitution will include the framework for a new national election that will be democratic, free and transparent:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers reaffirm its commitment to stand by our brother and sister teachers, public sector workers, healthcare workers and their unions in Zimbabwe as they continue to work with other Zimbabweans to find peaceful and democratic means to end the Mugabe dictatorship and secure a genuinely democratic and prosperous future; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT call on the United States and other governments to ensure that the current leaders of Zimbabwe respect the letter and the spirit of the Global Political Agreement that draws a roadmap for a new democratic constitution and new, free and fair national elections and pressure Zimbabwe to respect internationally recognized worker rights; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT recognize that both democracy and economic development require an educated citizenry. To this end, the AFT will cooperate with Zimbabwean teacher unions and educators to assist in the reconstruction of a viable system of public education for all of Zimbabwe's children. In addition to providing technical and material assistance, the AFT will lobby the U.S. government to commit U.S. foreign assistance for education development to Zimbabwe once democracy is restored.