Zim teachers frustrated by WCED payment delays

Zimbabwean teachers working in Cape Town schools claim they have not been paid for months, and they suspect they are not being prioritised by the provincial government owing to their nationality.

A group of Zimbabwean teachers claim they have not been paid by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) since December because of permit issues, including the contentious Zimbabwean exemption permits (ZEP).

The ZEPs expired in December last year, but the government has granted Zimbabweans on this visa regime a further year’s grace period before it puts paid to this permit.

Though the WCED rubbishes the teachers’ claim, it says there has been an increase in fraudulent work permits.

Nearly 180 000 ZEP holders in SA faced deportation when ZEPs expired in December 2021. Home Affairs issued a final extension that expires in December 2022, giving Zimbabwean students and workers an option to use other visa regimes.

Zimbabwean teachers says WCED officials are “nonchalant” about paying them because of their nationality.

Western Cape Zim Educators Union chairperson Jack Mitsvairo said he knew of nine city teachers who had not been paid for various reasons.

Mr Mitsvairo said he found it curious that the WCED had not paid the salaries to most Zimbabwean teachers in the province shortly after the ZEPs had been extended in January.

“The department itself is not openly accepting the decision by the Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi to extend the ZEPs. You phone the department to speak to the desk office and they know nothing about the instruction,” he said.

He blamed poor communication and a combination of incompetence on the part of officials and attitudes towards Zimbabweans for what he said was an annual problem.

“I don’t think they would treat the issue so nonchalantly if it were a local who goes three months without pay.”

A Kraaifontein teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity in fear of reprisal, said he had last been paid in December.

“I continue working because they might use it against me and call me before a disciplinary hearing. This normally happens that we don’t get paid in the beginning stages of the year and then we get paid later. We’re used to this treatment by now. In 2018, I worked from January to August without a salary. I ended up borrowing and borrowing from people.”

WCED spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond said the department employed 22 Zimbabwean teachers on contract – all of whom had been paid. She said there were 19 new nominations for contract employment, but those were being processed. Two nominations had been found to be working under fraudulent permits, Ms Hammond said.

In relation to the claim that the department wasn’t adhering to the national directive on ZEPs, she said: “The foreign national must have had a valid work permit which expired in order to apply the ZEP to the appointment on a contract basis (that is: the ZEP cannot be applied to a fraudulent work permit).”

Asked about Zimbabweans’ yearly non-payment struggles, Ms Hammond said the department followed the prescribed process in the Immigration Act with regards to the employment of all foreign nationals before an appointment was made and salaries paid.

She added that the risk of fraudulent work permits had increased in recent years.

Home Affairs Department spokesman David Hlabane said they had contacted the WCED about the expired ZEPs claim, but the department had assured them they were co-operating with the national directive on the permits.