Villagers Arrested Over Non-Ndebele School Head Ouster

By Judith Sibanda

Lupane, June 28, 2016 – THE stand-off between Lupane villagers and education ministry officials over the deployment of non-Ndebele speaking teachers in local schools is far from over following the arrest on Monday of four school development committee members who have led demands for the removal of a headmistress they accuse of stifling the teaching of Ndebele at a local school. 

The parents with children attending Mlamuli Secondary School, which is at the centre of the protracted dispute, have been demanding the removal of a Ms Bonyongwe since the beginning of the year accusing her of being responsible for the poor pass rate at the school. 

Bonyongwe is among many non-Ndebele speaking educators deployed to the pre-dominantly Ndebele region who are being accused of undermining the language by conversing with pupils, some in their elementary schooling, in Shona.

Villagers insist if the teachers want to be welcome in the area, they must at least show interest in learning the local language.

The stand-off has also been used by the secessionist Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) to cement its demands for a separate Ndebele state, something that has strongly been resisted by the current Zanu PF government.

Prior to the arrests, some parents had vowed to withdraw their children from the school until Bonyongwe was removed from the school. 

According to Mthwakazi Republic Party, the police swooped on the villages surrounding Mlamuli Secondary School and picked up the defiant parents. 

Those arrested were reportedly taken to the Jotsholo police station and efforts were being made to get lawyers to represent them.

“Zimbabwe Republic Police have arrested so far about 4 villagers in connection with firing of madam Bonyonywe by parents at Mlamuli secondary school.

“The 4 parents were arrested this (Monday) morning at the school. The Gukurahundists are now at work. A police officer speaking to us on condition of anonymity told us that Central Intelligence Office and other security officials have been deployed to Lupane with strict orders to sniff out anyone associated to MRP. But however villagers said they are ready to defend their space.

“Bonyongwe is not welcome to Lupane, finish! We demand the immediate release of our people now. The villagers have been taken to Jotsholo now. Efforts to get them a lawyer are underway,” said MRP in a brief statement.

The arrested four are part of the School Development Council (SDC.

They included Peter Ndlovu who is the chairman, Mbusi Nkomo, Mbonisi Khoza Peter Ndlovu and Thabani Sibanda for allegedly spearheading the eviction of Banyongwe.

Matabeleland North acting police spokesperson, Sergeant Namatirai Mashona could not be reached for comment as his office number went unanswered.

Activists and parents in the region have been pushing for the removal of non-Ndebele teachers from local schools saying they were to blame for the poor pass rate in Matabeleland.

MRP spokesperson Mpiyezwe Zwelethu Mconywa had at the weekend claimed indications were that Banyongwe had thrown in the towel and was preparing to leave the school.

However, Matabeleland North regional education director, Boithatelo Mnguni had said she was not aware of the developments, adding that the issue had already been rectified. 

She said Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora had addressed the Mlamuli Secondary School issue during a visit to the province last month.