‘Government Is Not Influenced By Critics , And The Pledge Has President Mugabe’s Blessing ‘-Lazarus Dokora

A GOVERNMENT policy requiring all schoolchildren to recite the national pledge will now be implemented unhindered when schools open next week after Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku dismissed the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights’ urgent interdict. Chief Justice Chidyausiku, in his chambers, on Thursday threw out the urgent application but directed the registrar of the Constitutional Court to set down the main challenge at an earliest convenient date.

This means the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education will continue with its plan requiring pupils to recite the pledge pending determination of the main contest instituted by a Harare man who is objecting having his children compelled to recite the pledge for religious reasons.

After the chamber hearing, the lawyers agreed before the registrar that if the parties file all the relevant papers for the main challenge by June 3, the full bench of the Constitutional Court will sit to hear the matter on June 29.

They agreed on the timelines to file the papers with the government expected to file its notice of opposition by May 4 this year. ZLHR will file heads of argument on behalf of the Harare man by May 20 while the government should file its heads by June 3 ahead of the hearing on June 29.

David Hofisi of the ZLHR, on behalf of a Harare man (name withheld for professional reasons), is contesting the constitutionality of the requirement.

The national pledge, according to the father of three school-going children who is behind the challenge, is unconstitutional and against his religious beliefs. He does not want his children to recite the pledge.

The man, who is a member of the Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe (AFM), argued that the national pledge is a prayer, which exalts various secular phenomena including the national flag, mothers and fathers who lost their lives in the liberation struggle.

This, he said, is not his understanding of prayer shared by his faith, which reserved worship to God alone. Meanwhile, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora yesterday said the national pledge’s planned launch in Lupane when schools open next Tuesday had been cancelled.

Dokora insists the government is not persuaded by critics of the national pledge, who count among their number some churches and the largest teachers’ union, Zimta.

The minister said the pledge already has the blessing of President Mugabe who witnessed thousands of learners recite it on Independence Day.

Addressing the Zimta conference in Victoria Falls that ends today, Dokora said there was nothing new about the pledge as some communities such as Binga have their own local pledges.

“We wanted to formally launch it in Lupane, but the school isn’t ready as there’s no water, power and teachers’ houses. So we can’t have pupils coming to such a school for the launch.

“The original plan was that it will be previewed then but it has already gone national as thousands of pupils recited it on Independence Day celebrations in front of President Mugabe and it has spread.

“Sometimes people just criticise for the sake of criticising. This pledge was taken from the Constitution’s preamble and we did not just invent it.” Daniel Nemukuyu and Leonard Ncube. Source-chronicle

photo-Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora

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