BY VENERANDA LANGA
YOUTH from Activista Zimbabwe have intensified their information dissemination campaign on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), which came into effect in 2007 after it was translated into some of Zimbabwe’s indigenous languages.
With the help of ActionAid Zimbabwe, young people are now more articulate in issues of good governance, democracy, as well as participation in anti-corruption activities and in elections, whereas in the past years there has been voter apathy by the youth.
ACDEG is pivotal in that it sets out principles to be followed by African governments on good governance, rule of law, democracy, free, fair and regular elections, equity in resources allocation as well as respect for human rights, among the marginalised such as women, people with disabilities, children and the youth who are often left out in governance processes.
An Activista Zimbabwe member, Receive Nyamutamba, says while ACDEG was activated way back in 2007, very few people, especially the youth, know about the charter that serves as an implementation tool when it comes to the enjoyment of human rights.
“As a result, youths from Activista Zimbabwe are now focusing on dissemination of information about ACDEG, and we are targeting translating the charter into some of Zimbabwe’s 16 national languages stipulated in the Constitution,” Nyamutamba said.
“We have already done vernacular versions for Manicaland and Matabeleland regions and are working on a Tonga translation on ACDEG, as well as pushing for the verification and adoption of the already translated Shona and Ndebele versions of the charter.”
He said there was need for the youth who are techno-savvy to convert ACDEG into a new media format so they can widely disseminate the charter using social media and other internet-based technologies.
Disability advocate Tsepang Mike Nare said the translations should also be in Braille and audio, adding that several activities should also be included to ensure that the hearing impaired also get information about ACDEG which promotes their rights.
Article 12 of ACDEG stipulates that State parties must undertake to implement programmes and carry out activities designed to promote democratic principles and practices as well as consolidate a culture of democracy and peace.
In article 12 (4) of ACDEG, it is further stated that State parties must integrate civic education in their educational curricula and develop appropriate programmes and activities to promote the culture of democracy and peace on the continent.
In Zimbabwe, the youth consist of 77% of the population and are consequently the most affected by political and economic policies and, therefore, must take part in initiatives or activities to promote democracy and good governance for the country.
For example, section 141 of the Constitution says Parliament must facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes, including in processes of its committees such as public hearings on Bills.
Youth participation in such law-making processes has been minimal despite that laws crafted by Parliament will affect future generations.
But the youth in Zimbabwe say they understand the importance of ACDEG and its relevance to their well-being.
Another member of Activista Zimbabwe, Melissa Museka, said young people in the country have a generational mandate to ensure there is democracy in all of Zimbabwe’s institutions.
“We also want free and fair elections and young people need to be empowered with knowledge to demand their rights as stipulated in ACDEG. Right now, young people are affected by unemployment, drug abuse and poverty. That is not the Zimbabwe we want,” she said.
“The Zimbabwe we want is one where there is responsive dealing in human rights issues, freedom of expression and association, and an end to corruption which is bringing suffering into the country. The youth should demand an end to economic difficulties. As a result, there is need to popularise ACDEG so that the youth are able to demand their rights.”
She said some of the vocal youth in the country had commented on issues of elections, corruption, human rights and the rule of law, demanding an improvement.
Museka, however, said such youth were unfortunately usually perceived as wearing a political jacket, yet they were only calling for implementation of ACDEG principles.
The translation of ACDEG into minority languages, she said, would ensure it is also known and understood by the rural youth who are often left out in information dissemination.
Activista Zimbabwe youth also feel that some countries like Mauritania, for example, have used ACDEG as a guide during difficult transitions to constitutional order after the 2008 coup.
ACDEG was created by the African Union in 2007 as a roadmap to better governance across the continent. It sets out international standards of good governance and democracy in such areas as the rule of law, free and fair elections, and condemns unconstitutional changes of governments.
“But other countries have had difficulties following the charter. West Africa, which represents more than half of the 20 countries whose legislatures have formally adopted — or ratified — the charter, has been the venue for 10 out of the 14 attempts to disrupt constitutional and democratic governments, such as in Mali and Guinea Bissau, since the charter was created,” a statement from Activista Zimbabwe said.
They said no transition of government had been witnessed yet in the country, but ACDEG would be a guide if there was a transition of government in the future, adding there was need to educate the youth on any regional and international treaties that affect their lives.
“Clearly, if there are any international, regional and even national policies that improve people’s lives, they should apply more among the young people than anyone else. Hence, the relevance of frameworks such as the ACDEG to youth in Zimbabwe is undisputed,” they said.
Some of the non-governmental organisations that have called for the operationalisation of ACDEG principles, apart from ActionAid Zimbabwe, include the Zimbabwe Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisations Forum and the Media Institute of Southern Africa, which have welcomed government’s determination towards abiding by regional obligations and being a signatory to ACDEG.
As a result, the Parliament of Zimbabwe approved the ratification of ACDEG in March this year. It now awaits the Foreign Affairs ministry’s report on the ratification by the country to the African Union before it is domesticated.
Several laws in the country will need to be aligned to the Constitution so that Zimbabwe implements the principles stipulated in ACDEG.