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Mnangagwa fires Deputy Minister of Higher Education Over Tribalism Rant

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has dismissed Simelisizwe Sibanda, the Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science, and Technology Development, with immediate effect.

The Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Martin Rushwaya, confirmed this in a statement released Monday evening.

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Rushwaya stated:While the official reason for Sibanda’s dismissal was not disclosed, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) has suggested that his termination may have been linked to alleged tribal remarks he made at a public event in the Matabeleland region. In a statement shortly before Sibanda was fired, the PTUZ said:

We are aware of a repulsive audio in which the Deputy Minister of [Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development] abuses a teacher in front of 100s of parents because she has a surname he doesn’t like. This kind of Vigilante 2024 Pro Max attitude belongs to the Stone Age. We expect urgent action from his principal.

Sibanda reportedly criticized a teacher in Matabeleland and asked for her transfer from the region because of her “Shona” surname.

It is said that the teacher, who grew up in Matabeleland and speaks fluent Ndebele, has a Shona surname. Sibanda, who serves as the Member of Parliament for Bubi Constituency in Matabeleland North, explained to the Chronicle that he requested the ECD teacher transfer because she could not speak the local languages.

During a visit to Clonnmore Primary School, Sibanda instructed the school head to arrange the transfer of the female teacher, stating that this would be beneficial for ECD learners.

Head, can you assist me. Kindly transfer this teacher. Yesterday we had the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, he said he wasn’t aware that there is a teacher who doesn’t understand a local language who teaches the local language, IsiNdebele. We don’t want to waste our children’s future,.

Kindly transfer this teacher immediately. Let’s do it that way, we want teachers to teach children and understand. If she was teaching Grade 6 we would understand, not ECD.

In a follow-up interview with the Chronicle, Sibanda insisted that he was not promoting tribalism. He said:

Mine was just an issue of Government policy on the issue of deployment of teachers and teachers have choices to apply to their preferred areas and are not deployed from nowhere.

My encouragement was from that particular community and 40 ECD souls to have someone able to do what should be done, which is teaching.

ECDs should be taught in their mother tongue if Government is to achieve what it intends to achieve through Vision 2030.

There is no way I can be tribal, that is why I said if she was teaching Grade Six it wouldn’t be a problem.

I didn’t say anything like no Shona speaker is allowed to teach in Matabeleland nor did I make reference to her surname in that regard.

There is no way I was going to do that, I don’t pursue a tribal agenda because I am a citizen of this country and a leader, I can’t do that.

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