Constitutional outreach meetings in rural Zimbabwe have revealed a gaping need for civic education before people can air their views on the new constitution.
A recent survey carried out by NewsDay in rural Murehwa at Ward 14 showed that although people were aware that Zimbabwe was in the process of crafting a new constitution, most of those interviewed did not really understand issues to be enshrined in the new constitution.
Asked what the words “Constitution”, or “Bumbiro remitemo” meant, most of the young people professed ignorance while the elderly were quite aware of definitions and what was happening.
“A constitution is a process where new laws for the country are coined,” said Cecilia Warimba, a 68-year-old woman.
“I know that a constitution is when people from Harare bring things for the sick,” said a 23-year-old school-leaver, Lloyd Njenje.
“It is working together as a country to make laws that are good for the people,” said Catherine Zinumwe, a 38-year-old member of the Vapostori sect.
At Chigwada Shopping Centre, a few kilometres from Pakati Secondary School, four youths interviewed could not define what a constitution is.
The youths were also surprised and were not aware there was a constitution-making meeting at the school, although they said they were aware that people from Copac would visit their area.
“A constitution is about laws that govern people,” said 31-year -old Charles Songere.
Johannes Muzanenhamo, a 36 -year-old cricketer from Harare who was visiting, said most people in the area were aware that a new constitution for the country was in the process of being collated.
However, he said most villagers confessed they were not really aware of what they should demand in the new constitution.
“On the talking points to do with the environment, I had to advise most of the villagers that they should be very outspoken on those pertaining to the destruction of their environment, like stream-bank cultivation,” said Muzanenhamo.
A constitutional lawyer, Greg Linington, stressed the need for civic education before people are asked to air their views on a new constitution. “A lot of people are still unsure of what should be discussed when making a constitution.
They still need to be educated on what a constitution is. There is a lot of confusion on that issue,” said Linington.
“In South Africa, a lot of work was done in terms of educating people on what a constitution is. All this information was given to every household and it was publicised in local languages.
Everyone had a copy of the South African Constitution and they knew what their rights were. That helps to develop a culture of constitutionalism, a culture of legality and a culture of respect for human rights.”
Linington said non-governmental organisations protecting the rights of children should have done civic education to ensure that people know which rights to be protected in the constitution.