Zimbabweans should cherish and use their Chapter 4 constitutional rights

A question that has been on the people of Zimbabwe's lips for a long time is that, since we are all now too aware of the untold suffering ruthlessly inflicted upon us by the ZANU PF government, what action can we take today?

ParliamentThe answer to that is simple: let us all take full responsibility of our constitutionally-guaranteed rights, and bravely stand up for what we truly believe in.

Chapter 4 of the Constitution is the best place to start.

I believe that every Zimbabwean should be aware of the constitutional provisions of Chapter 4 – also known as the Declaration of Rights – and make full use of them, as the first step in breaking the shackles of the insufferable pain and oppression that the people of Zimbabwe have been subjected to for decades.

I have always admired how Americans – from a primary school child to an elderly great grandfather – are so quick to quote and claim their rights, as enshrined in the United States (US) Constitution.

I still remember some years ago when a US primary school pupil took her school authorities to the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of schools forcing all pupils to recite the Christian ‘Lord’s Prayer’ at assembly.

She argued  that, as she was not a Christian, forcing her – and other pupils like her – to recite a Christian prayer, infringed on her First Amendment freedom of religion.

Needless to say, she won her case, and US schools were no longer allowed to force all pupils to recite the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, or engage in any other activities that would infringe on the religious freedoms of others.

When parents leave their children alone at home, and a police office comes and asks to search the house, one can be confident that the child will demand to see a search warrant before allowing the officer into the house – citing the Fourth Amendment.

Despite the alarming gun-related violence in the US, the National Rifle Association (NRA) will always stand its group for people to freely own guns,  based on their Second Amendment guarantees and block any legislation that may infringe on that.

The US media and all citizens also freely speak their minds, as guaranteed in the First Amendment.

These examples clearly illustrate what power we, as a people, possess if we started learning, from a very young age, the tenets of our Constitution.

Our own Constitution has some commendable guarantees on our freedoms and rights, and there is absolutely no reason why we should not take full advantage of these to fight for a better life, and demand more humane treatment from the government.

Even Section 3(2)(f), clearly states that the State and all institutions and agencies of government are bound at every level ‘respect for the people of Zimbabwe, from whom the authority to govern is derived’.

This unambiguously  shows that the Constitution recognises that we, the people of Zimbabwe, are the ultimate power in this country, and as such we should exercise that power to make our demands and voices very clear to the government, without fear.

As the people of Zimbabwe continue to suffer at the hands of this government, the first port of call would be Section 59 of the Constitution, which states that, ‘every person has the right to demonstrate and present petitions, but these rights must be exercised peacefully’.

This is one very important right that we have seldom used of late.

In the 1980s and 90s, Zimbabweans were very energetic in demanding their rights through demonstrations.

Those demonstrations bore a number of positive results, in which the government yielded to the people’s demands.

That was real people’s power.

Similarly, today the same approach can still be used, with positive results.

A case in point is the recent encampment of dismissed Grain Marketing Board (GMB) workers at their former employer’s premises, at which they demanded all their outstanding salaries.

After weeks at the premises without budging, and despite all manner of threats and ill-treatment, they manage to wring an agreement with the government-owned GMB to have all their outstanding salaries paid over a certain time frame.

Every other Zimbabwean possesses the same power and right to peacefully demonstrate, even for weeks or months, for their demands to be heard.

Another factor that needs to be appreciated is that there is no need for the people to organised by anyone.

It is so sad when we continue to suffer in silence, whilst waiting for a political party to come along and organise us.

If we continue to have such an attitude, we will wait till kingdom come!

None but ourselves can free ourselves!

People can start mobilising, whether for a petition or (a) peaceful demonstration(s) through social media, word of mouth, or any other communication channel.

Through such platforms, people can then organise themselves, and attend to such legal requirements as informing the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).

Only through such active mobilisation and participation can our ignored voices be finally be heard and taken seriously.

It is no sin, for the people of Zimbabwe to demand their rights, and to do so using all instruments availed to us in our Constitution – as we can not sit idly anymore, whilst we burn.

The government owes us respect, as the people of Zimbabwe, from whom their authority to govern is derived.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist and commentator, writer, and journalist. He writes in his personal capacity, and welcomes any feedback. Please feel free to call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]com

Post published in: Human Rights

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *