By Thandeka Matebesi
Non Governmental Organizations and individuals in the private sector have said that there is need to constantly sensitize the public on matters relating to the constitution so as to reduce incidences of human rights abuse.
In an interview with Community Podium following a meeting on promoting citizen participation in constitutional discourse held in Lupane, a representative of Lupane Youth for Development Trust Ashlee Buhlebenkosi Nhliziyo said there should be frequent awareness conversations with the public as they are the custodians of the constitution.
“As Lupane Youth for Development Trust, we felt that sensitization issues need to be frequently discussed as a way of informing people on the constitution as it is supposedly for the people by the people. This awareness strategy will help stem abuse,” said Nhliziyo.
The event was hosted by Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa), Centre for Applied Legal research (CARL) and Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC.
“The delegates also deliberated on the Bill of Rights, devolution, service delivery related rights, and exclusion of people living with disability
“We have freedom of speech but no freedom after speech. People feel that participating in constitutional matters is a waste of time as their voices are barely considered”, added Nhliziyo.
A legal expert Tanaka Muganyi, a legal practitioner at Tanaka Law Chambers and a ZMC Commissioner postulated that the Bill of rights of 2013 is inclusive in that it is horizontal and vertical, that is the people can go versus the state and the state can go versus the people. Muganyi also gave an overview of the Bill of rights in the 2013 constitution of Zimbabwe and the accompanying state obligations.
The Bill of rights contains basic rights for human beings and it is for the protection of the individuals as well as the state. Basic rights which people should be aware of include: the right to life as spelled out in Section 48 (this being noted as the most important right), the right to dignity in Section 52, the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to privacy in Section 57, rights of arrest and detained person in Section 50 (in conflict with the law you should be treated with dignity).
“Rights are limited so that people are governable and the constitution stands as the supreme law of the land for the people by the people with a referendum. The Bill of 2013 came with social, economic, political and cultural rights which include; the right to food, the right to water and the right to education,” said Mutatu.
He emphasized that it is important to understand that failure to recognize one’s rights has led to the abuse and ill-treatment of a lot of individuals, thus it is important to be aware of your rights”.
Mutatu explained that Zimbabwe women’s rights association provides a platform for all including people living with disability. This was given as a go to agent if people living with disabilities are discriminated against or segregated.
Speaking at the same event, Dr Cornelius Ncube noted that the promotion of citizen participation in constitutional discourse is important as it provides a platform to raise issues of concern. Devolution was defined as delegation or transfer of power.