The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has released a damning report exposing Zanu PF’s abuse of school children during its political activities.
ZHRC called on Parliament and the Justice ministry to craft laws that penalise such practices.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
The findings came following a complaint filed by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) and other unions against the conduct of political parties, particularly Zanu PF, which was in the habit of disrupting lessons and forcing school children to attend its rallies.
The findings by the ZHRC will likely clip political parties ahead of this year’s crucial harmonised polls.
“The compelling of children and teachers (and to contribute financially for teachers) to attend political rallies is a violation of their right to freedom of association and assembly in terms of the Constitution. The commission received documents which showed that teachers were compelled to donate towards interface rallies,” the report, released on Wednesday, read.
The teachers unions’ argued such practices, which included exposure to hate, discriminatory and disrespectful speech that presupposes some tribes are better than others, were a violation of children’s fundamental rights.
The findings ruled that part of the speeches promoted violence.
The union cited former First Lady Grace Mugabe for exposing children to discriminatory language over her desired songs, such as Zezuru are unconquerable, which was sung at some of her rallies.
Although Zanu PF dominated the rallies cited in the application, where both the former President Robert Mugabe and his wife addressed, MDC Alliance was also fingered.
ZHRC urged political parties to desist from such conduct.
“Political parties must adopt a code of conduct that includes provisions for the prevention of the misuse and manipulation of children in political activities which encompasses responsibilities to ensure that children who attend political rallies do so freely and are safe and well protected,” the report read.
“The code of conduct must commit political parties and other political actors to keep schools free of political meetings or other activities and not ask, encourage or force children in schools to participate in any political gathering or demonstration.”
It added political parties must desist from abusing school property such as buses and furniture.
The Primary and Secondary Education ministry was urged to develop administrative regulations to prevent political activities from being conducted in schools so as to guarantee that only pupils, staff, parents, legal guardians and others whose presence is necessary are allowed into schools.
The ministry was also encouraged to develop regulations that protect school resources from abuse by politicians in their pursuit of their interests.
ZHRC urged the Justice ministry to also come up with a specific law that guarantees the protection of children from political manipulation.
“Laws and regulations should be made that ban the use of schools by political actors, the use of children at schools in political activities, the enrolment/involvement of children in political activities without their parents’ prior consent and the use of school buses for transporting political activists,” the report read.
ZHRC also urged Parliament to “discuss this report so as to conscientise all political parties to respect the rights of children, teachers and civil servants when conducting their rallies.”
The report highlighted Zimbabwe was a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, hence efforts should be channelled towards their full protection.