TTU General Secretary Japhet Maganga
TTU General Secretary Japhet Maganga

Tanzania: Arrested union leaders thank Education International and member organisations for their solidarity

published 20 February 2024 updated 13 March 2024

Education union leaders from Tanzania were released after Education International (EI), the EI Africa office, and member unions from the region mobilised rapidly to their defence.

EI and member organisations had strongly condemned the arrest, torture and continued detention of Japhet Maganga, General Secretary of Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU) and nine other leaders in Dodoma. They had called on the Tanzanian Government to ensure their immediate and unconditional release, as well as respect for educators’ freedom of association.

The released unionists still had to report to the police, and informed EI that “the matter is not yet finished, as there is possibility of being taken to court at any time.”

“We denounce in the strongest terms these arrests, as well as interference by some senior Government officials in the internal affairs of the union. We hereby demand the immediate and unconditional release of Japhet Maganga and all the trade union leaders arrested by the police on Friday and urge your office to ensure that Tanzanian Government officials desist from interfering in the internal affairs of the union,” wrote EI General Secretary David Edwards in a letter addressed to Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, in response to the detentions.

Japhet Maganga and the other union leaders were arrested February 16th, during a legitimate TTU National Council meeting, which should be protected by the union constitution and the country's labour laws.

Edwards added that the Government of Tanzania should not interfere in the internal affairs of the union, "a clear violation of international labour standards. Government officials should desist from determining directly or indirectly who should be elected or retained as TTU General Secretary or official.”

“We kindly request your immediate attention to this matter and urge you to take the necessary steps to protect the rights and autonomy of Tanzania Teachers Union,” he concluded.

The Director of the Education International Africa (EIA) office, Dennis Sinyolo, condemned the action taken by the police as a serious violation of international labour standards, in particular, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 87 and 98, which guarantee freedom of association, the right to organise and collectively bargain. The Government of Tanzania is a signatory to these Conventions, he added.

“Education International Africa strongly condemns the harassment, intimidation, and arrest of Japhet Maganga and other union leaders. We call for their immediate and unconditional release. In accordance with international labour standards, it is imperative that the Government of Tanzania respects TTU's right to independently elect its leadership and conduct its activities without any form of interference,” Sinyolo said.

Sinyolo also called on African member organisations and development cooperation partners to exert pressure on the authorities of the Republic of Tanzania to immediately and unconditionally release Japhet Maganga and all the other union leaders, desist from interfering in the internal affairs of the union and ensure respect of trade union rights, including freedom of association.

Other African education unions have denounced the situation including, the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA) and the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU) calling on the Government of the Republic of Tanzania to:

  • Ensure the immediate and unconditional release of the TTU General Secretary, Mr Japhet Maganga, and all the other TTU leaders arrested and detained illegally while undertaking legitimate union business protected by the union's constitution and Tanzania's labour laws;
  • Respect and uphold the fundamental rights and freedoms of teachers and all education workers, including freedom of association and speech, as well as the right to engage in peaceful assembly without state interference;
  • Revoke the reported dismissal of Mr Maganga from his position as teacher;
  • Ensure that Government officials and the police desist from interfering in the internal affairs of the union in line with international labour standards and Tanzanian laws; and,
  • Ensure continuous dialogue with Tanzania Teachers Union in order to address matters related to educational policies and teachers.

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) noted that “the harassment of the General Secretary Maganga is not new, as the same government refused to endorse and pay the democratically elected General Secretary of TTU and forcefully ordered him to relinquish his position in TTU and return to class.”

The Eswatini’s union also urged the government of Tanzania to put a halt to “such dictatorship tendencies and the perpetration of fear against trade union officials in the country,” adding that “trade unions by nature will always fight for violated rights of their members and will always be independent from any government that is not established by workers themselves.”

The National Union of Public Primary Education of Côte d'Ivoire (Syndicat National de l’Enseignement Primaire Public de Côte d’Ivoire, SNEPPCI) and the National Union of Training and Education Staff of Niger (Syndicat National des Agents de la Formation et de l’Éducation du Niger, SYNAFEN) also condemned the arrests, stressing that they are “in clear violation of international labour standards, in particular, ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise and 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, of which Tanzania is a signatory.”

Education International is committed to closely monitor the situation, and if necessary, to report violations of trade union rights in Tanzania to international bodies such as the United Nations, ILO, UNESCO, the Global Partnership for Education and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.