National pledge challenge: Concourt reserves judgment

THE Constitutional Court on Wednesday 01 February 2017 reserved judgment on an application filed by an aggrieved parent, who is challenging the government’s move to force all school children to recite a national pledge which he alleges violates his children’s fundamental rights.

The contentious national pledge, which was introduced in May 2016, is recited by all pupils enrolled in the country’s primary and secondary schools.

But 46 year- old Mathew Sogolani challenged the constitutionality of the national pledge, arguing that it violates his children and his own constitutional rights.

In his application, which was filed in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday 19 April 2016 by David Hofisi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Sogolani, whose three minor children are enrolled in infant, primary and secondary schools respectively, argued that forcing children to recite contents of the pledge run contrary to the family’s religious beliefs.

Sogolani, a member of the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) church, wants the Constitutional Court to suspend the requirement that schoolchildren recite the pledge.

Hofisi said his client finds the national pledge offensive to his faith as it includes secular salutations in an address to Almighty God.

The human rights lawyer argued that the pledge would vitiate Sogolani’s rights to dignity, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and equal protection of the law – rights that are all enshrined in the Constitution.

The human rights lawyer added that the pledge is formulated “in the manner of an oath, a prayer and seems, in the very least, a religious observance”.

In his founding affidavit filed at the court, Sogolani argued that the national pledge is offensive to his religious convictions and thus in violation of Sections 51, 56 (1), (3), 60 (1), (2), (3) and 61 (1) (a) of the Constitution.

Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, who sat together with the Full Bench of the Constitutional Court, reserved judgment after hearing arguments from Hofisi and Advocate Lewis Uriri, who represented the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and which opposed the application.

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