Hundreds of university students were unlawfully arrested or unlawfully detained during 2009-2012, and police and state security forces violently repressed several protests at universities. School teachers faced intimidation and death threats, and some schools were used as militia bases.1760
Zimbabwe experienced ongoing political violence after the emergence in 1999 of the political party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to challenge Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) for power.1761 This violence was particularly intense during election periods.1762 According to a study by the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), one in two teachers surveyed had directly experienced political violence between 2000 and 2012.1763 Most reported that this violence took place during the school day.1764 The Student Solidarity Trust (SST) reported 211 cases of abduction and torture of university students from 2006 to 2010.1765
In the build-up to the 2008 presidential elections and during their aftermath, attacks on teachers and teacher trade unionists, including killings, arrests, incarcerations, destruction of homes, torture and threats of violence, were reported.1766 Many schools became sites for enforced political rallies in which teachers and head teachers were repeatedly and publicly threatened with death.1767
The political situation changed in 2008, when Morgan Tsvangirai, of the MDC, and President Mugabe came to a power-sharing agreement that lasted until elections in July 2013, which Mugabe won by a landslide.1768
During 2009-2012, there were incidents of political pressure on students and teachers and political use of schools, mostly implicating Zanu-PF supporters, but in one reported incident the MDC was involved.1769
For example, pupils and teachers were ordered to attend a Zanu-PF rally held at Mount Carmel School in May 2011, forcing several schools in Manicaland province to shut on a weekday.1770 In another incident, the MDC organized a rally at Pagwashi Primary School in the Cashel Valley of Chimanimani East that was allegedly disrupted by Zanu-PF supporters, creating a situation that police warned was volatile.1771
Schools were reportedly used in the Zanu-PF campaign against international sanctions, despite a government directive prohibiting it.1772 On one occasion, a senior education official in Chikomba district, Mashonaland East province, ordered that all schools be employed for signing an anti-sanctions petition and that head teachers act as unpaid polling officers to oversee the exercise.1773
There are no recent figures for primary or secondary enrolment. In 2011, gross tertiary enrolment was 6 per cent and the adult literacy rate was 84 per cent.1774
Attacks on school students, teachers and other education personnel
A compilation of media and human rights reports suggests numerous teachers faced harassment, expulsion, threats of political violence and death because Zanu-PF supporters accused them of supporting the MDC.
In 2009, local militia and tribal leaders allegedly forced schools to provide them with offices and appointed ‘youth coordinators’ and school prefects without permission from education authorities. In these positions, they allegedly intimidated teachers in school, leading them to fear for their security, and kept the youth militia informed of activities within the schools.1775
In November 2010, PTUZ said Zanu-PF supporters led by war veterans were trying to ‘cleanse’ Mashonaland province of teachers after President Mugabe announced that elections might be held the following year. PTUZ cited the case of six teachers who were forcibly transferred to other schools in Zanu-PF strongholds and feared for their lives. There was a history of war veterans and Zanu-PF supporters accusing teachers of supporting the MDC and targeting them with political violence.1776
In February 2011, the MDC alleged that war veteran leader Jabulani Sibanda closed schools across a whole district in Masvingo and forced teachers and schoolchildren to attend his pro-Zanu-PF meeting, where he said MDC members would be killed. He had reportedly used the same tactics in other parts of Masvingo, Mashonaland Central and Manicaland provinces over the previous year.1777 The PTUZ confirmed that teachers in Gutu had left their jobs because of death threats from Sibanda.1778
There were also several reports of Zanu-PF militia imposing their ideology on school curricula. In some cases, Zanu-PF leaders forced teachers to attend ‘re-education camps’, allegedly so that they could ‘experience the pain and suffering endured by liberation war heroes’.1779 The threat of violence was ever-present, as Zanu-PF set up bases in some areas to intimidate, beat and torture people who refused to comply with their demands.1780 PTUZ claimed that history teachers found it hard to teach the subject without being accused of attacking Zanu-PF and avoided teaching ‘true history’ for their own safety.1781 In one case, a head teacher was told that war veterans were going to visit his school to teach history.1782
Zanu-PF supporters threatened at least one head teacher and two teachers because they accepted gifts or grants for their schools from political opponents of Zanu-PF. A head teacher at Mapor Primary School, Mutare North, fled, fearing for his life, when Zanu-PF came looking for him at the school after they learned that he had accepted funds under the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) from an MDC-T senator.1783 Two teachers left Chatindo Primary School in Nyanga North after Zanu-PF youths threatened them for accepting five rolls of barbed wire paid for by the CDF.1784
Military use of schools
Although the exact number is unknown, human rights organizations found evidence of some schools being used as bases by militia groups, including Zanu-PF youth militia, in Masvingo province, Manicaland province and several other rural areas. In one incident, Zanu-PF youth militia allegedly camped at Chikurudzo primary and secondary schools in Masvingo North, causing fear among teachers and schoolchildren by threatening to set up torture bases on the premises.1785 In another, a militia base was set up at Chifamba Primary School in Guruve South, Mashonaland Central province, where militia members conducted night patrols and political meetings and forced people to attend Zanu-PF events.1786 In August 2011, Zimbabwean human rights groups indicated that some 200 youth militia members were being trained at Sherenje Secondary School in Manicaland province.1787 War veterans and the Simudza Makoni youth group, allegedly linked to Zanu-PF politician Didymus Mutasa, also reportedly seized control of Rainbow Crèche in Rusape, forcing its staff to flee.1788
Attacks on higher education
Reports suggest that police and security forces used excessive violence to quell student protests on several occasions, resulting in at least two deaths and 641789 injuries.1790 For example, in September 2010, two students reportedly died after being brutally assaulted by security guards and ‘unknown assailants’ who sought to prevent students with unpaid fees from attending a graduation ceremony at Bindura University. Sixteen other students were injured, according to the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union.1791 In a separate incident, around 10 students from Great Zimbabwe University were reportedly beaten by police for pressing other students to join a boycott of lectures.1792
The Student Solidarity Trust reported seven cases of abduction and torture of university students from January 2009 to July 2012.1793 In one incident, two students were organizing a protest against high fees at Masvingo Polytechnic when Central Intelligence Organisation agents allegedly arrested and tortured them. The students then had to pay an ‘admission of guilt’ fine to be released.1794
At least one academic was reported to have been tortured during detention by the Zimbabwean authorities. On 5 December 2012, a lecturer at Bindura University was arrested, put in solitary confinement and tortured for claiming in a research paper that police had been ordered not to arrest Zanu-PF members committing crimes during the 2008 conflict.1795
According to the SST, 359 students were unlawfully arrested between January 2009 and July 2012 and 349 were unlawfully detained in the same period.1796 It is not known how many of these cases overlap.
Zimbabwe: student arrests and detentions January 2009 to July 2012
Year Unlawful arrests Unlawful detentions
2009 124 128
2010 120 96
2011 52 62
2012 (January – July) 63 63
Total 359 349
Source: Student Solidary Trust
In February 2010, it was reported that ten students, including four student union officers, were arrested by police and security guards during a meeting to discuss grievances at the University of Zimbabwe.1797 In another case, police detained five student leaders after one commented that President Mugabe was delaying political progress; the students were reportedly beaten while in custody, including with whips and batons.1798
Attacks on education in 2013
The PTUZ reported that teachers were intimidated with threats of physical harm into supporting a particular political party during the parliamentary and presidential elections in July. The union said that in Mashonaland Central province teachers were drafted into ZANU-PF structures and forced to campaign for the party against their will. On voting day, they were told that they should plead illiteracy so that they could be ‘assisted’ to vote by ZANU-PF supporters. In Mashonaland West, the teachers were forced to withdraw their membership from the PTUZ as the organization complained about the harassment of teachers.1799 The Zimbabwe Election Support Network reported as an illustrative critical incident during the voting process the fact that some known teachers in Chimanimani East, Manicaland, asked for assistance to vote on election day.1800 The African Union Election Observation Commission noted that levels of voter assistance were high, with more than one in four voters ‘assisted’ in some polling stations at schools.1801
In two other incidents, student leaders were arrested for talking to students on campus. In January 2013, Zimbabwe National Students’ Union (Zinasu) secretary-general Tryvine Musokeri and two other Zinasu leaders were arrested at Harare Polytechnic for addressing a crowd of students. They criticized government failure to provide students with grants and loans.1802 In February 2013, a Gweru magistrate acquitted Zinasu president Pride Mkono and his deputy, Musokeri, on charges of violating the Public Order and Security Act after they were arrested for addressing students at Midlands State University the previous year.1803
1760 This profile covers attacks on education in 2009-2012, with an additional section on 2013.
1761 HRW, “Bullets for Each of You”: State-Sponsored Violence since Zimbabwe’s March 29 Elections (New York: HRW, June 2008), 3.
1762 Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), Political violence and intimidation against Teachers in Zimbabwe, Report prepared for the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), (Harare: PTUZ, 2012), 7; and HRW, Perpetual Fear: Impunity and Cycles of Violence in Zimbabwe (New York: HRW, 2011), 19-20.
1763 Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), Political violence and intimidation against Teachers in Zimbabwe, Report prepared for the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), (Harare: PTUZ, 2012), 17.
1764 Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), Political violence and intimidation against Teachers in Zimbabwe, Report prepared for the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), (Harare: PTUZ, 2012), 2.
1765 Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH),
The Language of the Police Batons: Attacks on Teachers and Students in Zimbabwe (SAIH, 2012), 15.
1766 Education International, “Zimbabwe: Two teachers dead, three more missing,” 20 June 2008; Andrew Moyo, “7 teachers killed in political violence: Report,” 2 July 2009; Zimbabwe Oh My Zimbabwe, a film directed by Ingrid Gavshon, which includes interviews with teachers who have been tortured, Angel Films, https://vimeo.com/80124195 (password: angel22).
1767 Interview with Human Rights Watch researcher on 11 January 2013.
1768 “Zimbabwe profile,” BBC News, last updated 26 September 2013.
1769 Moses Matenga, “Keep out of schools, politicians told,” Newsday, 15 May 2011; and Zimbabwe Peace Project, Early warning report on politically-motivated human rights and food related violations, June 2009, 10.
1770 Moses Matenga, “Keep out of schools, politicians told,” Newsday, 15 May 2011.
1771 Zimbabwe Peace Project, Early warning report on politically-motivated human rights and food related violations, June 2009, 10.
1772 Moses Matenga, “Zanu-PF descends on school heads,” Newsday, 25 March 2011.
1774 UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), “Education (all levels) Profile -Zimbabwe,” UIS Statistics in Brief (2011).
1775 “Zimbabwe: Violence spikes after MDC’s withdrawal from government,” IRIN, 27 October 2009; and “Zimbabwe: Political violence growing in rural areas,” IRIN, 27 July 2009.
1776 “Zimbabwe Teachers Face Fresh Political Violence,” Radio VOP, 3 November 2010.
1777 Irene Madongo, “Jabulani Sibanda shuts down schools for ZANU-PF rally,” SW Radio Africa, 1 March 2011; Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, “Schools shut down for Zanu-PF rallies,” Kubatana.net, 2 March 2011.
1778 “Gutu Teachers Flee Violence,” Radio VOP, 4 March 2011.
1779 Zimbabwe Peace Project, “Summary on Politically-Motivated Human Rights and Food-Related Violations,” July 2011, 4-5.
1780 Ibid., 4.
1781 Violet Gonda, Sandra Nyaira, “Zimbabwe Teachers Union Says ZANU-PF Forcing History Syllabus on Schools,” VOA Zimbabwe, 1 September 2011;Vladimir Mzaca, “Union accuses Zanu-PF of distorting history in schools,” The Times Live, 4 September 2011.
1782 Chengetai Zvauya, “Stop meddling in education – Coltart,” Daily News Live, 9 March 2011; Lance Guma, “War vets demand to teach history in schools,” SW Radio Africa, 10 March 2011.
1783 Zimbabwe Peace Project, “Summary on Politically-Motivated Human Rights and Food-Related Violations,” June 2011, 14.
1785 Zimbabwe Peace Project, Early warning report on politically-motivated human rights and food related violations, June 2009, 11-12.
1786 Zimbabwe Peace Project, “Summary on Politically-Motivated Human Rights and Food-Related Violations,” March 2011, 7-8.
1787 Jonga Kandemiiri, “Zimbabwe rights groups say Zanu-PF youth militia training in secondary school,” VOA Zimbabwe, 24 August 2011.
1788 Zimbabwe Peace Project, “ZPP Monthly Monitor – September 2012,” 5.
1789 Included in this count are at least 12 who were reported as having been beaten or severely assaulted and therefore can reasonably be assumed to have been injured.
1790 Violet Gonda, “Arrests and beatings as police clash with students at UZ and MSU,” SW Radio Africa, 3 January 2009; Clemence Manyukwe, “ZIMBABWE: University closed following protests,” University World News, Issue No: 23, 22 February 2009; Student Solidarity Trust, “Ten NUST university students released from police custody,” kubatana.net, 20 April 2009; “ZIMBABWE: Sacked academics fight back,” University World News, Issue No: 44, 20 December 2009; US Department of State, 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Zimbabwe (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 11 March 2010); Student Solidarity Trust, State of the Education Sector Report in Zimbabwe 2009: Inside the Pandora’s Box, 2009, 50; Gibbs Dube, “Zimbabwe Students Released After Intervention by Government in Their Favor,” VOA Zimbabwe, 15 January 2010; “Police arrest and assault student leaders,” The Zimbabwe Times, 18 January 2010; Alex Bell, “Police Arrest 10 Students for Holding Meeting at the University of Zimbabwe,” SW Radio Africa, 4 February 2010; “Zimbabwe Students Pay For Attacking Draconinal Law,” Radio VOP, 19 February 2010; Lance Guma, “Violent clashes escalate between student factions,” SW Radio Africa, 11 March 2010; “ZIMBABWE: Lecturers strike while students face crackdown,” University World News, Issue No: 51, 11 April 2010; Alex Bell, “Student leaders hospitalised after CIO assault,” SW Radio Africa, 28 May 2010; Lance Guma, “Two students killed by security guards at Bindura University,” SW Radio Africa, 21 September 2010; “Zim Students Hospitalised After Brutal Police Assault,” Radio VOP, 21 October 2010; and US Department of State, 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Zimbabwe (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 8 April 2011).
1791 Lance Guma, “Two students killed by security guards at Bindura University,” SW Radio Africa, 21 September 2010.
1792 “Zim Students Hospitalised After Brutal Police Assault,” Radio VOP, 21 October 2010.
1793 Student Solidarity Trust correspondence with Clemence Manyukwe, September 2013.
1794 US Department of State, 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Zimbabwe (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 8 April 2011), 4-5.
1795 Tichaona Sibanda, “Ex-CIO spy tortured in custody for exposing ZANU-PF,” SW Radio Africa, 5 December 2012.
1796 Student Solidarity Trust correspondence with Clemence Manyukwe, September 2013.
1797 Gibbs Dube, “Police Arrest 10 Students for Holding Meeting at the University of Zimbabwe,” VOA Zimbabwe, 3 February 2010.
1798 US Department of State, 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Zimbabwe (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 11 March 2010).
1799 Raymond Majongwe, Secretary-General, PTUZ, interviewed by Clemence Manyukwe for Education under Attack 2014, 9 September 2013.
1800 Zimbabwe Election Support Network, Report on the 31 July 2013 harmonized elections, 84.
1801 African Union Commission, Report of African Union Election Observation Mission to the 31 July 2013 harmonised elections in the Republic of Zimbabwe, para 67, 18.
1802 Statement by ZINASU information department, 21 January 2013.
1803 Statement by ZINASU information department, 18 February 2013.