President Mnangagwa fires education deputy minister over controversial teacher transfer demand


HARARE — President Emmerson Mnangagwa has dismissed Simelisizwe Sibanda, the deputy minister for Higher and Tertiary Education, after he demanded the transfer of a teacher who could not speak local languages at Clonnmore Primary School in Bubi.

Deputy Minister fired by Mnangagwa
Bubi MP Simelisizwe Sibanda 

Sibanda, who also serves as a legislator for Bubi Constituency in Matabeleland North, was removed from his position by Mnangagwa through a statement communicated by Martin Rushwaya, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet.

"His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde. Dr. Emmerson D. Mnangagwa has, in terms of Section 108(1a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, removed Hon. Simelisizwe Sibanda from the Office of Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development with immediate effect," Rushwaya said in the statement.

The incident that led to Sibanda's dismissal occurred during his visit to Clonnmore Primary School, where he learned about a teacher struggling to teach an Early Childhood Development (ECD) class due to her inability to speak the local language. Parents had expressed their frustration over the situation.

Sibanda advised the school head to facilitate the transfer of the female teacher, a move perceived as tribally motivated. 

The teacher, who only spoke Shona and English, hastily lodged a complaint with government education offices in Bulawayo, seeking protection from the deputy minister.

The Chronicle had earlier defended Sibanda's actions in an apologetic piece, suggesting he was upholding the government policy of "leaving no one and no place behind" by calling for the teacher's transfer. 

The article praised Sibanda for his initiatives such as distributing learning materials to vulnerable children and building new schools, in response to the poor pass rates in Bubi schools.

The perennial problem of low pass rates is also "compounded by the deployment of non-local language speakers to teach Early Childhood Development (ECD), which the community feels affects children’s education foundation," according to the piece.

Sibanda, during engagements with parents and the community, highlighted that deployment contrary to government policy on language was a recurring issue. 

He noted that parents at Clonnmore School had complained about teachers who could not speak local languages.

"Mine was just an issue of government policy on the deployment of teachers. Teachers have choices to apply to their preferred areas and are not deployed from nowhere. My encouragement was for that particular community and 40 ECD souls to have someone able to do what should be done, which is teaching," Sibanda said, as quoted by the Chronicle.

However, Progressive Teachers Union Zimbabwe (PTUZ) President Takavafira Zhou condemned Sibanda's actions as "thuggish behavior" that was shocking and deplorable.

"Sibanda, as a Deputy Minister, must have treated the teacher in a professional manner, rather than denigrating and dehumanizing her in public. If the MP thought he had enough reasons to query the deployment of the teacher, he could have raised the issue through his counterparts in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education," Zhou stated. 

"Worse still, the MP seems to be ignorant of how teachers are transferred by his assumption that he or the head, Sifiso Buhlungu, has the power to summarily transfer a teacher in a manner reminiscent of the colonial Master and Servant scenario."

"As PTUZ, we want to reiterate that ZANU-PF needs to rein in their rogue and errant MP who lacks educational taxonomy and professional ethics and is a danger to our society at large. 

"The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education needs to give this thuggish MP tutorials on professionalism and Ubuntu/Unhu. The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education also needs to call Sibanda to order for bringing the name of the Ministry into disrepute and disrespect."

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