Ask Takudzwa 28 – The Rights-Based National Order

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Takudzwa Mazwienduna is the informal leader of Zimbabwean Secular Alliance and a member of the Humanist Society of Zimbabwe. This educational series will explore secularism in Zimbabwe from an organizational perspectiveand more.

Here we talk about the rights for the non-religious in Zimbabwe.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: The rights and freedoms enshrined in the Zimbabwean Constitution provide a context for things secularists (properly understood as Zimbabwean constitutionalists, as Zimbabwe is a constitutional republic) can do and can’t do in Zimbabwean society within the stipulated rights and freedoms. What is an important point for comprehension of the times when Zimbabwe transitioned from Rhodesia?

Takudzwa Mazwienduna: The Zimbabwean government practices the rule by law instead of the rule of law in colonial fashion. This is not the only instance in the constitution that contradicts the principles of constitutionalism. That part in the 2013 constitution however was a little progressive, an improvement from the previous law POSA (Public Order and Security Act) and AIPPA (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act) which made freedom of speech completely non existent. A lot of people who criticized the government or formed unauthorized meetings were arrested under these laws until 2013.

Jacobsen: To clear out the cobwebs and the dust in the attic here, Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013 in PART 9: GENERAL MATTERS RELATING TO PARLIAMENT 148. Privileges and immunities of Parliament 1 states the “President of the Senate, the Speaker and Members of Parliament” have, more or less, full freedom of speech privileges for the purposes of the elected or appointed roles. To Canadians, and the United Nations, this contrasts with “Freedom of Expression” as the utilized phrase in the case of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 19 and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Article 2(b). We see “Freedom of Speech” language acutely in the Constitution of the United States of America in Amendment 1. Any idea as to the language differences seen in this particular section of Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013?

Mazwienduna: When Zimbabwe transformed from Rhodesia, most of the old laws were retained except those that preserved white privilege. Equality was the order of the day and the 1980s were characterized by reforms that sought to uplift the formerly subjugated black Zimbabweans.

Civic awareness however remained and still remains a big problem. It explains how the government manages to get away with so many violations to the constitution.

Jacobsen: Zimbabwe’s constitution limits the freedom of expression, in an earlier section devoted to the more generalized form of communication terminology, in the case of hate speech. This becomes another time in which the term “speech” emerges in the constitution. Only in relation to the particularized idea of hate speech rather than speech in and of itself. Have any cases arisen relevant to humanists on the subject matter of hate speech against them?

Mazwienduna: The Humanist society in Zimbabwe has benefited from this law in 2017. In one particular instance, a government official who was the Master of Ceremonies at the former president Robert Mugabe’s birthday talked down on non Christians and asserted that Zimbabwe is a Christian nation before leading everyone into prayer. After some members of the Humanist Society of Zimbabwe raised their concerns referencing his stunt as hate speech, the government official wrote an official apology setting an example for other politicians never to do the same. It was one of those rare moments where the law was upheld and it brought hope to all of us.

Jacobsen: Any particular cases of hate speech without consequences while a common occurrence against non-believers in Zimbabwe?

Mazwienduna: The Non Believers in Zimbabwe have generally been safe as far as the law and government is concerned. It is the individual families and society that is ultra religious that is the problem for most.

Jacobsen: A rights-based order represents a humanistic or Humanist enterprise in ethics concretized in print for legal structure of a society compared to a Holy Law-based framework grounded in religious belief structure, text, authorities, and sentimentalities. Any rights-based moral structure separates the divine from the mundane. Thus, secular constitutions become Humanist constitutions in the most fundamental way. The rest becomes details. Zimbabwe, in this manner, wrote a humanist constitution. How does a humanist constitution and a secular society permit the religious and non-religious to live in more harmony together than a religious/theocratic one?

Mazwienduna: The Zimbabwean constitution has given humanists and non religious people the security of legal protection should they face persecution from the religious. This has also protected minority religions, notably African Traditional religions, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and even Neo Pagans. The Zimbabwean society however remains mostly conservative fundamentalist Christians who break these secular laws a lot by praying in public spheres or holding church meetings in schools and continue to as long as no one reports them. There should be more enforcement of the country’s secular laws and individual humanists have done a great job bringing a lot of such cases to the attention of the authorities.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Takudzwa.

Mazwienduna: It’s always a pleasure Scott.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-booksfree or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular AllianceCentre for Inquiry CanadaKelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.

Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du QuébecAtheist FreethinkersCentral Ontario Humanist AssociationComox Valley HumanistsGrey Bruce HumanistsHalton-Peel Humanist CommunityHamilton HumanistsHumanist Association of LondonHumanist Association of OttawaHumanist Association of TorontoHumanists, Atheists and Agnostics of ManitobaOntario Humanist SocietySecular Connextions SeculaireSecular Humanists in CalgarySociety of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph)Thunder Bay HumanistsToronto OasisVictoria Secular Humanist Association.

Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an AgnostikerAmerican Atheists,American Humanist AssociationAssociação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and AgnosticsAtheist Alliance InternationalAtheist Alliance of AmericaAtheist CentreAtheist Foundation of AustraliaThe Brights MovementCenter for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist IrelandCamp Quest, Inc.Council for Secular HumanismDe Vrije GedachteEuropean Humanist FederationFederation of Indian Rationalist AssociationsFoundation Beyond BeliefFreedom From Religion FoundationHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist InternationalHumanist Association of GermanyHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist Society of ScotlandHumanists UKHumanisterna/Humanists SwedenInternet InfidelsInternational League of Non-Religious and AtheistsJames Randi Educational FoundationLeague of Militant AtheistsMilitary Association of Atheists and FreethinkersNational Secular SocietyRationalist InternationalRecovering From ReligionReligion News ServiceSecular Coalition for AmericaSecular Student AllianceThe Clergy ProjectThe Rational Response SquadThe Satanic TempleThe Sunday AssemblyUnited Coalition of ReasonUnion of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

Image Credit: Takudzwa Mazwienduna.

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