Call for Solidarity in the Case of Comrades Obert Masaraure and Robson Chere

By the Central Committee of the Zimbabwe Communist Party (ZCP)

Comrade Obert Masaraure (top left), Comrade Robson Chere (top right), and the logo for the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe

The President of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), Comrade Obert Masaraure, was falsely arrested and accused of murder as the teachers of Zimbabwe embarked on a job action due to salaries well below the Poverty Datum Line. 3 weeks later, the Secretary-General of ARTUZ, Comrade Robson Chere, was arrested on similar charges.

On 17th June 2022 Comrade Obert Masaraure, President of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) was refused bail at Harare Magistrate’s Court after being arrested for the murder of a friend. Comrade Obert, 38, was arrested on Tuesday 15th June 2022, accused of murdering Roy Issa in 2016. Previously it had been accepted that Issa had jumped to his death from a seventh-floor window of the Jameson Hotel in Harare while drunk. A number of eye-witnesses saw him jump.

Prosecutors now say that Masaraure “and his accomplices still at large” beat Issa to death in the street below in the early hours of 2nd June 2016 and will call eight state witnesses. Comrade Obert’s lawyer Doug Coltart has stated:

“The investigation into this case something of a witch-hunt where the police are not investigating in an impartial manner seeking the truth on what really transpired but… rather appear to be on a mission to frame the accused person with no evidence.”

Coltart revealed that the prosecution’s star witness was a woman named Samantha Lauti, who was allegedly detained “for an entire day” by the police and “forced to state that it was Masaraure who killed Issa.”

The National Prosecuting Authority alleges that Masaraure, Issa and friends were drinking alcohol at the Quill Club located at Ambassador Hotel, leaving at about 10:30 pm on June 1st, 2016, to go to Jameson Hotel where Masaraure had a room booked on the 7th floor. The group allegedly continued drinking into the early hours of the next day “until a misunderstanding arose amongst them.”

“The accused [Masaraure] and his accomplices ganged up against Roy Issa and assaulted him on the head with unknown weapons along Park Street adjacent to Jameson Hotel. In order to conceal the offence, they misrepresented that Issa jumped off through the window which resulted in his death.”

The prosecution says a pathologist concluded that Issa died as a result of “brain damage, compound skull fracture and head trauma” before recommending that “police to investigate.”

Coltart stated that the charges were fabricated, insisting that Masaraure was nowhere near the Jameson Hotel at the time of the incident.

“When we are finished, you will see that this is a classic case of trumped-up charges. The police have been constantly changing the allegations against Masaraure in order to come up with a narrative that will specifically pin him.

“Initially, there were allegations that Masaraure pushed Issa out of the window at Jameson Hotel. He was detained on a detention order on those allegations. All of a sudden, all the allegations have changed, new allegations were fabricated to say that Masaraure assaulted Issa to death along Park Street in the early hours of 2nd June 2016.

“Masaraure answered to that in a warned and cautioned statement, giving his alibi that he was not at the scene but at home with his wife.

“Seeing the challenge that indeed Masaraure was not present at the scene at that given time, allegations were changed again to say the deceased was assaulted at 10:30 pm.

“Furthermore, the prosecution has not been candid with the court because they did disclose that there was an inquest into this case conducted by the police, at the conclusion of which foul play was ruled out.

“We have been denied access to that inquest report which is a public document. Efforts were made to obtain that report from the clerk of court and it appears that it is missing.”

“We pray that the inquest report be immediately put before this court and a copy be provided to the defence. We pray that the controller at Harare Central Police Station be directed to produce before this court a copy of the detention order of 14th June 2022 for it to be inspected by this court and that all the allegations be thoroughly investigated by the independent section of the police and a report be made to this court.”

Obert Masaraure was eventually given bail by the High Court in Harare on Wednesday 29th June 2022. ARTUZ Secretary-General Comrade Robson Chere was then arrested on similar charges around the same case on 5th July 2022. On 8th July 2022, Obert Masaraure was re-arrested for a letter he wrote following the arrest of Robson Chere. It was alleged that he was breaking bail conditions. Here is the text of the letter:

Dear Partners and members of ARTUZ

REF: Arrest of Cde Robson Chere

I meant to write to you earlier to thank you for the massive Solidarity you rendered to me when I was in custody, accused of murdering Roy Issa in 2016. I thought I could write after taking a rest from the draining experiences of the Cages of Chikurubi Maximum Prison. Unfortunately the State has arrested my friend and Cde the Secretary General of Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, ARTUZ Cde Robson Chere. I can no longer afford to just say thank you, but to once again ask for active Solidarity from you. Chere and myself are now jointly charged with the murder of Roy Issa in 2016. The incident was exhaustively investigated by the homicide department in 2016. The Law and Order Section of the police has taken over the investigations rubbishing all findings made in 2016.

The Law and Order traditionally handles sensitive political matters not cases of murder. The involvement of the Law and Order arm in this case is a clear indication that the law is being weaponised to paralyse ARTUZ operations.

Robson Chere is just as innocent as I am. The State seeks to strain and compromise ARTUZ’s capacity to respond to the worsening socio-economic crisis which has reduced teachers to paupers and placed the education sector into intensive care unit.

I invite you to join our fight of demanding freedom for Robson Chere under these difficult times. You can do the following in Solidarity;

  1. Write a letter to the President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa demanding the immediate release of Robson Chere who is a victim of Judicial persecution.
  2. Join the online campaign demanding freedom and justice for Robson Chere using #FreeRobo #JusticeForRobo #DropTheCharges
  3. Organise a physical protest at the Zimbabwean embassy in your country to apply pressure on Harare.
  4. Join our Black Tuesday protest by wearing black and sharing pictures online demanding an end to judicial persecution of the workers in Zimbabwe.
  5. Write to the International Labour Organization requesting investigations into the judicial harassment of labour leaders in Zimbabwe.

    I can confirm that I was only released on bail because of your consistent advocacy, kindly do the same for Robson Chere so that he is urgently released from the cold Cages of Prison.

    Yours Faithfully, Obert Masaraure ARTUZ National President

Robson Chere was released on bail on 14th July 2022. On the same day, Obert Masaraure was refused further bail because it was alleged that he was inciting teachers to violence over the ‘murder’ case.

Both Comrade Obert Masaraure and Comrade Robson Chere are members of the Zimbabwe Communist Party (ZCP).

ARTUZ is affiliated both to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and to the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).

It should be noted that the Death Penalty for murder is still in force in Zimbabwe.

Comrade Obert Masaraure and other ARTUZ members including Secretary-General Comrade Robson Chere have been repeatedly arrested. Comrade Obert has also been twice abducted by ‘persons unknown’ and severely assaulted, the second time being stripped naked and left unconscious.

In December 2020, a 53-year-old primary school teacher Shilla ‘Sheila’ Chisirimunhu, who was peacefully demonstrating for her salary in her home town of Masvingo, was arrested and charged and convicted was:

“participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry as defined in section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act”

On 18th December 2020, Comrade Sheila was sentenced me to 16 months imprisonment of which 6 months were suspended and 10 months were effective. A family person, Comrade Sheila spent the whole of Christmas and New Year locked up, being released on bale on 5th January 2021. Much later that year, charges were dropped.

Teachers’ salaries were originally negotiated in US dollars in 2012 at a time when the Zimbabwe Dollar was dropped and a multi-currency system with the US dollar as currency of reference was in use. By the beginning of 2018 a teacher was receiving US$505 per month. But that year, government decided to reintroduce the ZimDollar at 1:1 to the US Dollar. In October that year, the government unilaterally, without consultation, began to pay teachers in ZimDollars but at the rate negotiated in US dollars. By December that year, teachers’ salaries had slipped to one-third of their US dollar value earlier that year.

By earlier this year teachers’ salaries were pegged at Z$22,000 and, as a result of the 5-day strike of teachers’ and hospital staff 20th-24th June, government increased their salaries by 100% From Z$22,000 to Z$44,000.

But what does this mean in real terms?

The ZimDollar to the US Dollar is now 403:1 at the official rate that means that at the official rate of exchange, a Zimbabwean teacher is now receiving US$109 per month, or R1,853. But on the street, the real rate is 600:1 which is US$73 per month, or R1,241.

The arrest of Obert Masaraure came just before the strike that of Robson Chere just after. It is obvious that the parasitic bourgeoisie now in control of the state machinery clamps down on any opposition and seeks to keep the working class in bondage.

The Zimbabwe Communist Party gives its full support to our teachers and hospital staff full support in their in any action they take to secure a living wage.

We further point out that we cannot expect people unable to adequately support themselves and their families under present conditions. Government harassment of teachers makes the problem worse. Schools and hospitals cannot be properly run by people whose income is so low that they cannot function normally in their daily lives. This problem is of little interest to our ruling elite who send their children to expensive private schools and attend private hospitals, often in other countries.

The Zimbabwe Communist Party demands:

1. That all charges against Obert Masaraure and Robson Chere be dropped immediately.
2. That government stops harassing teachers and other trade unionists.
3. That demands for a living wage by teachers, health workers and other sectors be urgently addressed.

Solidarity Messages:

We call on trade unions, communist and workers’ parties and all progressive organisations and individuals to send solidarity messages to: [email protected]

Complaints to:

Office of the President and Cabinet [email protected] +263 242 707091
[Please address emails to His Excellency E.D. Mnangagwa, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe]

Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education [email protected] +263 242 799914/704421/705153/705281/791127/791538
[Please address emails to the Honourable Minister of Primary and Secondary Education]

Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
[email protected] +263 242 774620/7
[Please address emails to the Honourable Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs]

General Secretary: N.N. Mabhena [email protected]
Acting International Secretary: Ian Beddowes [email protected]