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Deputy Education Minister Sacked Over Discrimination Incident

Simelisizwe Sibanda
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Harare – President Emmerson Mnangagwa has dismissed Higher Education Deputy Minister Simelisizwe Sibanda following allegations of discrimination against a Shona teacher in the Matabeleland region.

The announcement was made in a statement by Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Martin Rushwaya, on Monday.

“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 Simelisizwe Sibanda from the Office of Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development with immediate effect,” the statement read, without detailing the reasons for Sibanda’s removal.

Sibanda’s dismissal follows demands from the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) for an apology over his alleged derogatory remarks towards a female Early Childhood Development (ECD) teacher, Winnet Mharadze. According to reports, Sibanda interrogated Mharadze about her presence in Matabeleland, questioning her Shona surname, and subsequently ordered her removal from Clonnmore Primary School.

An audio recording of the incident revealed Mharadze being subjected to a barrage of ethnically charged questions, leaving her visibly distressed. Sibanda reportedly instructed the school head to facilitate her immediate dismissal.

PTUZ President Takavafira Zhou condemned Sibanda’s actions, describing them as unprofessional and dehumanizing. Zhou criticized the deputy minister for failing to handle the situation appropriately and for displaying a lack of understanding of the teacher transfer process.

“It is with utmost shock and disbelief that we have learnt of the rogue and thuggish behaviour of Bubi MP, Simelisizwe Sibanda, against an ECD female teacher, Winnet Mharadze, at Clonnmore Primary School on 24 June 2024. Sibanda, as a deputy minister, should have treated the teacher professionally instead of denigrating her in public. If he had concerns about her deployment, he could have raised them through the appropriate channels within the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education,” Zhou stated.

Zhou further criticized Sibanda for his perceived ignorance of the proper procedures for transferring teachers and likened his actions to those of a colonial-era authoritarian. He called on Zanu PF to address Sibanda’s behavior, which he deemed a danger to society.

The PTUZ emphasized the importance of celebrating unity in diversity and urged public officials to exemplify professionalism and Ubuntu/Unhu. They condemned Sibanda’s actions as divisive and harmful, calling for an end to parochial attitudes that undermine national unity.

“Zimbabweans need to celebrate their unity in diversity, and we expect MPs and ministers to be flag bearers of this. When those we expect to be more reasonable by virtue of their positions in society behave irrationally, it is deeply concerning. We demand an unconditional apology for the insult to Winnet Mharadze as a matter of urgency,” the PTUZ statement concluded.

Sibanda’s dismissal underscores the government’s commitment to addressing discriminatory practices and upholding the principles of unity and equality within the nation’s educational system.