There is nothing more revealing (and, by extension, a tacit admission) by a government, that understands that it has since lost genuine popular support, and is merely existing on borrowed time, than the wanton abuse and disregard of the country’s constitution – which the leadership swore to protect and uphold – in a failing attempt to castrate the people of their just freedom of expression, and right to peacefully demonstrate and petition.
Only a few weeks ago, I entered a writing competition sponsored by Kubatana (a civil society organization that focuses on issues of human rights and social justice in Zimbabwe), that asked participants to articulate a section of the constitution that they believed mattered the most, and why.
I certainly had no problems answering that one – as it was unquestionably Section 59, which clearly states, “Every person has the right to demonstrate and to present petitions, but these rights must be exercised peacefully”.
Can anything be expressed more clearly and unambiguously, under any other legal document, as this?
The reason I gave as to why this section mattered the most to me was simply that, our Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013, was arguably one of the best in the world – containing some of the most fundamental guarantees on human and people’s rights, checks and balances on state institutions, and limitations on the powers of government, especially against abuse – however, for these to be effectively implemented, and adequately benefit the nation, it was imperative that the citizenry’s right to freely express themselves (through various means, including peaceful demonstrations and petitions) needed to be valued and safeguarded.
Otherwise, without the ability to effectively exercise this fundamental right, the Constitution itself became threatened – as the government would be under no pressure in ensuring the religious adherence to this sacred document and its tenets.
Therefore, Section 59 could be used to make an enormous difference in holding the government accountable in faithfully implementing the entire Constitution – for instance, we could peacefully demonstrate and petition both the executive and the legislature to swiftly align any outstanding laws with the supreme law of the land.
Without Section 59, the citizenry was practically muted, and had no say in the affairs and governance of their own country – thereby, allowing the state to rule carte blanche, with impunity.
Armed with Section 59 of the Constitution, the citizenry would be able to make their voice clearly and loudly heard, through peaceful demonstrations and petitioning of any relevant state institution, and hold their government answerable to them in every aspect.
Yet, what we have been witnessing ever since the ZANU PF regime came into power in 1980 – but, indisputably aggravated after the coup d’etat in November 2017, that ushered in the so-called ‘New Dispensation’, or ‘Second Republic’, whose deceptive names have shamefully failed to whitewash the regime’s brutal, corrupt, and ruinous past, as the same ZANU PF has struggled to live up to expectations, but has rather intensified its cruelty and criminality – has been a concerted attack on the rule of law in Zimbabwe, and the weaponization of these same laws to unjustifiably repress, persecute, and brutalize any voices of resistance, dissent, and even cries of hunger and poverty.
The propensity by the ruling establishment to lamely and foolishly constantly justify this barbaric and savage medieval bastardization of the constitution, on the basis of a few instances of violence perpetrated by handful of rogue elements, does not hold water – not even a little bit.
Can a government violate its own laws, simply because there are some people who are violating the law? Does that even make sense?
Our Section 59 right to peacefully demonstrate and petition is still very much on our statute books, as any willful violation of such a fundamental law (or, any other) by those mandated with protecting and upholding it, is a serious cause for concern, and exposes a leadership that has lost all conscience, and the right to govern.
If we are to entertain this madness (even for just a minute) then, the people of Zimbabwe have the right to ask, “If peaceful demonstrations can be banned, as a result of a few rogue elements who turned violent during protests, then shouldn’t the ruling ZANU PF party itself face the same ordeal, as it has a long history of untold gruesome violence – that reared its ugly head in the heinous massacring of over 20,000 innocent men, women, and children in the 1980s, the sadistic murder of hundreds of opposition MDC supporters in the 2000s, and the cold-blooded shooting dead of dozens of protesters in 2018 and 2019 (most of whom were bystanders, who were actually fleeing from the mayhem), as well as thousands upon thousands more being beaten up, abducted, tortured, maimed, their homes razed to the ground, and displaced – be the first to be banned?”
If there is any fairness in this country, then ‘what is good enough for the gander, is most certainly good enough for the goose’, and we would also want to see ZANU PF, and its military junta, being held accountable for all these obvious crimes against humanity – before, disingenuously attempting to deprive the population of their right to peacefully demonstrate, under the foolish pretext of some possible violent elements, or an imagined illegal regime change agenda.
What then is the role of the police? Should they not be deployed to every demonstration, to ensure that peace and tranquility prevails, and any rogue elements are immediately arrested and brought to book – instead, of using them to stifle that fundamental right, which is the cornerstone that defines a true democracy?
There is absolutely no justification for the Zimbabwe regime in denying the people their constitutional rights – since, that would only expose it as nothing more than a bunch of unpopular fascist cowards, who fear the people they claim to have overwhelmingly voted for them, and are willing to shackle them in bondages of perpetual poverty, hunger, and silence.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]Post published in: Featured