The AFT has sent a letter from president Randi Weingarten to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing the union's concern over the continuing suffering of the Zimbabwean people and urging U.S. leadership to end the reign of terror and devastation wrought by President Mugabe.
"The misery, death, persecution and repression of the Zimbabwean people inflicted by Robert Mugabe and his ruling party cohorts have been well documented by the American press and international human rights organizations," the letter says. "Teacher unions and civil society organizations with whom we work in Zimbabwe report that most schools have been closed for six months, that hospitals and clinics are empty-with no doctors, nurses, medicines or patients-and that children are abandoned, ill and starving." In addition, the country is seeing deaths and illness due to cholera, further economic and social deterioration, and an increasing number of political and economic refugees.
At its Jan. 18 meeting, the AFT executive council discussed the situation in Zimbabwe and vowed to intensify its efforts to mobilize AFT members, along with unions throughout the world, to bring pressure on the Mugabe regime to end the suffering of the Zimbabwean people, and restore the rule of law and democracy.
At the AFT's 2008 convention, delegates passed a resolution of support for the people of Zimbabwe. In addition, the union presented its Bayard Rustin award to the Zimbabwe teachers at the convention and showed an AFT documentary, "Zimbabwe, Oh My Zimbabwe," (above) about the plight of teachers tortured by the Mugabe regime for carrying out their democratic rights.
The AFT's international affairs department has been working with the Zimbabwe Teachers Association since 2001 to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. (Visit our Web site for more information.) In addition, the AFT has worked to bring international attention to and support for teachers who have been intimidated, tortured and imprisoned by the Mugabe regime. It also has provided humanitarian relief to educators who choose to stay in the country in the hope that they will be part of the reconstruction of the education system.