Ruling party offers training in its ideology to lecturers

Zimbabwean lecturers have undergone an ideological orientation training programme facilitated by an institution run by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF party, with plans under way to compel all first-year university students to also attend the lessons.

The training by the Herbert Chitepo School of Ideology also includes civil servants as well as Zanu-PF members.

David Dzatsunga, the president of the College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe, told University World News that he did not attend the training but confirmed that it had taken place.

“Everyone has a constitutional right to belong to any party, whether lecturer or student. [But] we don’t come to college to do partisan politics. For me, I’m a unionist. I’m not partisan, I represent people of all political shades,” he said.

The vice-chancellors of all state-run institutions of higher learning have also previously undergone the ideological training.

Professor Fanuel Tagwira, permanent secretary of the ministry of higher and tertiary education, science and technology development, announced the course in an earlier statement.

“The Chitepo School of Ideology will be having a workshop for university and college lecturers at the Midlands State University main campus from 23-24 January 2023. The school has prepared a basic orientation course which is designed to offer ideological orientation to all sectors of the Zimbabwean society ‘leaving no one and no place behind’ as directed by His Excellency, the President of Zimbabwe, Dr ED Mnangagwa.

“It is against this background that the ministry is cordially inviting a maximum of twenty (20) members of staff from each institution to attend this very important workshop,” said Tagwira.

He said the Midlands State University would provide accommodation and meals, but universities were required to each pay for their members to attend. The total due, based on the attendance of 1,000 people, was US$65,500.

What do students say?

Zimbabwean students are not happy with the training that is being offered to lecturers as they feel campuses are being politicised to benefit the ruling party.

Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) president Benon Ncube said the training is part of a Zanu-PF indoctrination programme.

He said it is problematic, especially as there are some institutions that are banning students unions – such as Midlands State University – on the grounds that students’ unions are political.

Ncube said allowing lecturers to attend the training will result in the freedom of students being infringed upon because lecturers will not understand any student who will come and behave in an ideology different to what they were taught at the Zanu-PF Herbert Chitepo School of Ideology.

The student leader said Mnangagwa is creating political ideology prefects at learning institutions aimed at controlling the way students behave.

“In an environment where the institutions are trying hard to make students politically unconscious, then you find that the same institutions are compelling lecturers to attend a political ideology training.

“One wonders what environment we are creating in these institutions. An environment in which students are empty politically and then we expect the lecturers to be the ones who will instil the political ideology into their minds,” said Ncube.

“The Hebert Chitepo School of Ideology is Zanu-PF ideology. It is not true that the Chitepo school instils values of patriotism because, according to whom is this patriotism? Who plans the curriculum? As it stands now, people who have attended the school are aligned with Zanu-PF. There is no patriotism in that but it’s an extension of Zanu-PF training. It is a Zanu-PF breeding ground and it’s unfortunate that it is stretching to our lecturers,” he said.

Chitepo Ideological School

According to the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper, the Herbert Chitepo School was formed during Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation war and was initially known as Whampoa Ideological College before getting its new name in 1977.

The late Herbert Wiltshire Pfumaindini Chitepo was a lawyer who attended South Africa’s Fort Hare University and King’s College London, then went on to lead ZANU before independence and was assassinated in March 1975 in Zambia.

When Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, the ideological college was discontinued.

In an interview with the Sunday Mail newspaper in 2022, Chitepo Ideological College principal Munyaradzi Machacha said that, in 2016, the country’s war veterans met the late Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and it was agreed that the school be launched again following alleged concerns about the deterioration of patriotism and understanding of the party’s ideology within party structures.

He confirmed that the college is a party school for Zanu-PF, which trains members and civil servants who include lecturers, adding that vice-chancellors have since been trained.

“We have a very good working relationship with the minister and permanent secretary of higher [and tertiary] education. We also interact at the highest level with vice-chancellors of state universities.

“We have had symposiums with them. We all agree that ideological consciousness is important and that it must find space in all our universities. There are plans already under way to ensure that all first-year students undergo some form of national orientation so that they are aware of who they are and Zimbabwe’s national interests so that they can proudly serve their nation,” said Machacha.

He added that they have also trained students belonging to a student union aligned to Zanu-PF.

“The enthusiasm from students is overwhelming. We have done a number of courses with students in tertiary institutions, mainly from the Zimbabwe Congress of Students Union (ZICOSU) and with the lecturers.

“I would say that I am seeing a new trend where young people are eager to know more about the history of their country, the history of the liberation struggle of this country; eager to know the party ideology itself,” said Machacha.