MDC calls for public awareness of Zimbabwe constitution

MDC calls for public awareness of the constitution

The preamble to the Constitution of Zimbabwe clearly states that the people of Zimbabwe are ‘’united in our diversity by our common desire for freedom, justice and equality, and our heroic resistance to colonialism, racism and all forms of domination and oppression. ’’ It is, therefore, incumbent on all stakeholders, particularly the government, to ensure that all Zimbabweans are fully acquainted with the terms and conditions of the Constitution that became operational in May, 2013. The Constitution of Zimbabwe is indeed, a historic and sacrosanct document which all citizens of the country should be thoroughly familiar with.

It is not an over-statement to declare that the Zimbabwean Constitution contains very far-reaching and all-embracing provisions; particularly relating to Chapter 4 that outlines the Declaration of Rights.

The MDC notes, with extreme disappointment, that the Zanu PF government is deliberately avoiding taking the relevant steps that will enable all citizens of the country to familiarise themselves with the content of the Constitution. We suspect that the Zanu PF regime harbours a very sinister motive of trying to make sure that the majority of the citizens are not made aware of their constitutional rights as detailed in their country’s Constitution.

This is not at all surprising because all dictatorial regimes the world over are very fearful of a population that is highly conscientised about its fundamental rights and liberties. Put alternatively, all dictatorial regimes, such as the Zanu PF regime, thrive and subsist on the ignorance and suppression of the majority of the people. Dictators generally and routinely hate and despise human rights.

Section 7 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for the promotion of public awareness of the Constitution. In fact, the State is obliged to promote public awareness of the Constitution, in particular by:

  • Translating it into all officially recognized languages and disseminating it as widely as possible;
  • Requiring the Constitution to be taught in schools and as part of the curricula for training of members of the security services, the Civil Service and members and employees of public institutions; and
  • Encouraging all persons and organisations, including civic organisations, to disseminate awareness and knowledge of the Constitution throughout society

Almost three (3) years after the adoption of the new Constitution of Zimbabwe, the supreme law of the country is yet to be translated into the sixteen (16) official languages of the country,which are: Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa.

What is very surprising is that the Zanu PF regime always makes it a priority to purchase expensive motor vehicles for its Cabinet ministers and other government bureaucrats but the translation of the Constitution into the sixteen (16) official languages of the country has never been considered a priority. Little wonder, therefore, that the majority of Zimbabweans, both within the country and in the Diaspora, are not at all aware of the contents of their own national Constitution. This is, indeed, a huge embarrassment to us as an independent and sovereign nation.

It is very difficult to inculcate the spirit of patriotism, oneness and nationhood within our people if the majority of Zimbabweans remain ignorant of the provisions of their own Constitution.

The MDC sincerely hopes and trusts that the new curricula that is being talked about by the Ministry of Education would prioritise the teaching of our Constitution from the early childhood learning stage going up. Citizens of many other countries in the world are very much aware of the contents of their national constitutions and this has tremendously helped these countries in fostering national cohesion and solidarity.

It doesn’t require a lot of money to translate the Constitution of Zimbabwe into the sixteen (16) official languages and also to ensure that both hard and soft copies of the national Constitution are widely distributed amongst the people.

The Zanu PF regime spent no less than US$60 million in 2015 buying sports utility vehicles and Mercedes Benz limousines for Cabinet ministers, their deputies and other top government and security services officials. Only a very tiny fraction of this amount would have sufficed to undertake the extremely important task of translating the Constitution into the various official languages.

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Zimbabwe needs genuine media freedom

Zimbabwe needs genuine freedom

Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are part and parcel of fundamental human rights and freedoms that are protected under Section 61 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Indeed, every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes :

  • freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information;
  • freedom of artistic expression and scientific research and creativity and
  • academic freedom

The MDC welcomes the announcement by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ),that twelve (12) digital television channels will soon be launched in Zimbabwe. All these channels will be on the digital platform as the country moves away from the old, unreliable and antiquated analogue form of television transmission.

As a social democratic political party that firmly and fervently advocates for freedom of the media, the MDC is, however, very concerned that of the twelve (12) digital television channels to be launched in the country within the next few weeks, six (6) channels have already been taken up by the bankrupt and poorly managed Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

The remaining six (6) channels will be taken up by private operators. It is frightening and indeed, very depressing news to learn that ZBC, a public broadcaster that has, over the years, hopelessly and dismally failed to operate as a genuine and non-partisan national broadcaster, has already been allocated half of the twelve(12) additional channels without going to an open public tender.

We strongly suspect that the Zanu PF regime is already playing its usual games of ensuring that the electronic media is rigidly and tightly controlled and monitored to ensure that only the views and policies of the disintegrating Zanu PF party dominate the local airwaves.

The world over, dictatorial regimes abhor genuine media freedom. The Zanu PF regime is a classic example of a dictatorship. Everything about this regime revolves around one man and one man only and this is none other than the nonagenarian, Robert Gabriel Mugabe. As MDC, we can bet our bottom dollar that the Zanu PF regime will never, ever agree to situation whereby there is genuine media freedom in Zimbabwe.

Only a few days ago, the Zanu PF Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, Christopher Mushowe, was in the news ominously warning local journalists not to report on so-called sensitive national security issues. Mushowe should be advised, in no uncertain terms, that Zimbabwe is living in the 21st century which is essentially the digital age.

Gone are the days when governments could rigidly control and manipulate the media in an endeavour to suppress reportage of corruption and other acts of misdeed and impropriety in high public offices; including the security services. In this modern age, there is a phenomenon that is known as citizen journalism.

Almost every other Zimbabwean has access to a smart mobile phone handset and as such, it is virtually impossible to rigidly control and regiment the flow of news; particularly on the ever popular social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram etc. In this respect, therefore, Mushowe should immediately exit his misguided comfort zone and appreciate that every Zimbabwean can now operate as a citizen journalist.

If the Zanu PF regime has got nothing to hide, why are they so paranoid when it comes to their iron-fisted hold on and control of the electronic media? The regime knows that the electronic media, particularly radio, is a powerful tool of mass communication. This is the main reason why the crumbling Zanu PF regime is determined to maintain its fascist control over the electronic media.

In fact, the MDC is convinced that the six (6) digital television licences that are now up for grabs by private players will, somehow, be granted to companies that are controlled by or in some way, linked to Zanu PF functionaries and some other such regime apologists.

The people of Zimbabwe deserve to be allowed to fully and genuinely exercise their fundamental right of freedom of expression. The MDC will be closely monitoring the process of how the six (6) private digital television licences are going to be awarded and if need be, we shall resort to taking appropriate court action to ensure that the Zanu PF regime doesn’t abuse the allocation of these licences in order to push its own nefarious and tyrannical agenda.

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