Rural teachers protesting in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, were brutally attacked by security forces yesterday. The protesters, who are members of the Rural Teachers of Zimbabwe (RTUZ) had announced their intention to 'express (their) displeasure at the failure of government to pay salaries and bonuses of civil servants'.

As we reported last month, teachers had been threatening to strike because of the failure to pay them their salaries. That strike was defused when the salaries arrived, but to the dismay of the teachers their meagre pay packets had been docked by $40 in unannounced pension contributions. One headteacher described some of his staff in tears when they received their pay.

The protesters were met by police in riot gear who beat them up with batons, putting several in hospital. Other protesters, including the leader of the RTUZ have been arrested.

This is unlikely to be the end of protests as anger at the failure to pay both teachers and other civil servants properly is mounting in the country. Meanwhile the President Robert Mugabe is holidaying with his family in the Far East. One of the protesters placards read 'we are starving while you are feasting in a foreign land.'

In a press release, the RTUZ  called 'upon comrades in other sectors and all progressive voices to join hands with us and exercise our collective rights to expression, assembly and mostly decent work until our demands are met.'