Timba said he would appeal to Mugabe’s catholic upbringing


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Jameson Timba, who was chairman of the Association of Trust Schools at the time, said he was going to appeal to President Robert Mugabe’s catholic upbringing to persuade him not to sign the Education bill which gave the government powers to regulate fees at private schools.

The government wanted to set the fees for day scholars at 30 or 50 percent those of boarders, a move that Timba said was going to force most private schools to close.

He argued that the move was being pushed through by Education secretary Stephen Mahere who had once remarked that he resented paying more for his son’s schooling where he was not provided a meal than for his daughter’s schooling where she was.

Timba said he planned to offer Mugabe two options: sign the Bill but require the Minister of Education to suspend the boarding fee provision, or send the Bill back to Parliament for revision.

He was confident, based on past successful meetings with Mugabe, that he could once again appeal to Mugabe’s own catholic school upbringing to convince him to override his Education Minister.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 06HARARE308, EDUCATION BILL PASSES AS SCHOOLS CRY FOUL

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

06HARARE308

2006-03-10 12:40

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO4660

RR RUEHMR

DE RUEHSB #0308/01 0691240

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 101240Z MAR 06

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9734

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1146

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 0978

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1150

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0410

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 0770

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1204

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3548

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0976

RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 1604

RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RUFGNOA/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1361

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000308

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. NEULING

SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/10/2015

TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL ZI

SUBJECT: EDUCATION BILL PASSES AS SCHOOLS CRY FOUL

 

REF: A. A HARARE 227

 

B. REF B HARARE 187

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (C) The widely unpopular Education Bill passed Parliament

on February 28, enhancing GOZ powers to interfere with the

operations of private schools. In consultation with school

groups, the GOZ amended many of the more objectionable

provisions. However, according to Jameson Timba, the

chairman of the private schools association, a last-minute

amendment by Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere that caps

the fees that day students pay at boarding schools is

unconstitutional and endangers all schools. Timba told us he

plans to issue an ultimatum to President Mugabe who has yet

to sign the bill; either remove the new provision or they

will challenge the amendment in court. End Summary.

 

——————————————— —

Parliament Approves Watered-Down Education Bill

——————————————— —

 

2. (SBU) An amended Education Bill passed Parliament last

week and now awaits Mugabe’s signature. The original Bill

faced strong opposition, even from within ZANU-PF (ref B).

It was heavily revised, with input from the private schools,

after the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) found parts to

be unconstitutional. The revised legislation requires that

all schools apply to the Education Ministry Permanent

Secretary (PS) before raising fees but requires the PS to

 

SIPDIS

approve all hikes that do not exceed the increase in the

official consumer price index (CPI) over the last school

term. Schools can apply for rate increases in excess of the

inflation rate so long as the parents at the school agree,

but in these cases the PS has the right to refuse.

 

3. (C) Jameson Timba, the chairman of the Association of

Trust Schools, told poloff on March 8 that he had suggested

linking tuition hikes to the CPI even though he was aware

that the official rate of inflation was severely

underreported. For the schools, the most important issue had

been finding some way to increase their fees without

government interference. In that regard, he noted that the

original Bill had allowed the Ministry to unilaterally set

fees for private schools. Timba said the government had made

other concessions to the schools in the amended Bill,

including provisions for the use of temporary teachers if a

qualified instructor could not be found, the predominant use

of local languages (not all three national languages) in

early grades, and the abandonment of plans to created a

nationwide school uniform.

 

—————————————-

But Late-Minute Amendment Sparks Outrage

—————————————-

 

4. (SBU) After the House of Assembly agreed to the revisions

and the Bill was before the Senate, Education Minister

Chigwedere inserted a last-minute amendment that would cap

fees that day school students pay at boarding school at 30 or

40 percent of full boarding fees, depending on whether meals

were provided or not. With virtually no debate, the upper

house assented to the change. Called back to into sessio

with only 66 of its 150 members present, the lowr house

approved the Senate’s changes on Februar 28.

 

5. (C) Timba told poloff that this amendmnt defied economic

logic and, if implemented, wold force many schools to close.

 

HARARE 00000308 002 OF 003

 

 

All schools had different cost structures, which made

uniformity in fee formulations impractical. Boarding school

fees for day students are typically about 50 percent of fees

for boarders. In order to adhere to the 30 or 40 percent

ratio, boarding schools would either have to significantly

lower fees for day students ) unlikely in Zimbabwe’s

hyperinflationary environment – or raise fees for boarders,

which might run them afoul of the CPI-linked rate hike limit.

Timba suggested that Education PS Steven Mahare’s personal

interests had driven this provision. Mahare had once

remarked to Timba that he resented paying more for his son’s

schooling where he was not provided a meal than for his

daughter’s schooling where she was.

 

6. (C) Timba, a lawyer by training, also said the wording of

the amendment would be technically impossible for

non-boarding schools to comply with. The provision that

allowed them to increase fees also required them to abide by

the new fee structure for boarding students. However, since

they had no boarders, Timba contended, the day schools would

be unable to set any fees. If this remained unchanged it

might force many schools to close as a result and that made

the last)minute amendment unconstitutional. (N.B. The

constitution guarantees that no law will hinder the

operations of private school.) The PLC ) which reviews all

bills to test their constitutionality ) had approved the

amendment. However, PLC member and MDC MP Innocent Gonese

had admitted to Timba that the committee had made a mistake

in its haste, which it unfortunately could not revoke.

 

—————————

Issuing Ultimatum to Mugabe

—————————

 

7. (C) Timba said the schools were determined to fight the

bill. Outlining the school association’s next step, he said

he hoped to meet with Mugabe later this week to discuss the

last-minute amendment. Timba planned to offer Mugabe two

options: sign the Bill but require the Minister to suspend

the boarding fee provision, or send the Bill back to

Parliament for revision.

 

8. (C) Timba was confident, based on past successful meetings

with Mugabe, that he could once again appeal to the leader’s

own Catholic school upbringing to convince him to override

his Education Minister. Timba also shared with poloff a

letter he wrote to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa * who

Timba said had helped revise the original Bill ) asking the

Minister to intervene on the school association’s behalf. If

Mugabe refused to overturn the amendment, Timba was prepared

to take the issue to the High Court to test the clause’s

constitutionality.

——-

Comment

——-

 

9. (C) The massive sigh of relief breathed by parents after

the more contentious provisions of the original Education

Bill were withdrawn has been replaced by fresh concerns for

their children’s schooling. Once renowned for having some of

Africa’s best schools and highest literacy rates, ZANU-PF and

Chigwedere in particular have single-handedly destroyed much

of Zimbabwe’s education system. Attacks on private schools

and the universities (ref A) are rapidly eroding the human

capital so vital to any post-Mugabe economic turnaround and

which, once destroyed, will take years if not decades to

replace. Moreover, the GOZ’s constant assault on the

education system remains a significant impetus for migration.

 

10. (C) Chigwedere and the regime’s insistence on capping

school fees is yet another demagogic play to the galleries of

supposed mass opinion while ignoring economic realities and

 

HARARE 00000308 003 OF 003

 

 

educating their own children abroad.

DELL

 

(4 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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