Ask Takudzwa 29 – Freedom of Expression’s Matrioshka: Member State to International States of Rights

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 freedom of expression within the context of Zimbabwe and its important to humanists there.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Article 1 and 2 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013 make the important point of the democratic nature of the society and the supremacy of Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013 as the law of the land, people, and institutions of Zimbabwe. Therefore, all considerations of the freedom to express oneself remain grounded in the statements of Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013. Article 61(1) of Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013 functions in a context of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the media. I find the expressed emphasis on the media an important note to this conversation on freedom of expression within a, in principle, humanist document or constitution. What seems like the overarching rationale for the inclusion of the media and expression rather than expression alone with media implied in Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013?

Takudzwa Mazwienduna: The Zimbabwean independent media had carried out a lengthy campaign leading up to the 2013 constitution making process. The previous constitution had unconstitutional amendments limiting the media and making it so that only propaganda from state run newspapers was tolerated. A lot of independent journalists were arrested under the repressive legislation that included AIPPA which I talked about in the last interview. So the emphasis on media was a win pushed for by the opposition and activists calling for the journalists who were arrested to be released.

Jacobsen: Article 61(1)(a) states, “Freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information.” Where does this become particularly consequential for individual humanists who have been questioning and require the ability to research and substantiate questions about the household religion?

Mazwienduna: That section was also in relation to previous repressive legislation like AIPPA, mostly targeted to journalists rather than humanists. Prior to the 2013 constitution, there hadn’t been really any laws that protected church privilege or infringed on secular rights. Since independence, Zimbabwe was a legal heaven for religious minorities.

Just not a social heaven for them, but a legal heaven nonetheless.

Jacobsen: Article 61(1)(b) states, “Freedom of artistic expression and scientific research and creativity.” To the humanistic sensibility or philosophy, or more fundamentally the defining characteristic of human nature as in the instinct to creatively construct or to create, artistic expression and empirical research seem like different manifestations of truth through metaphor and truth through fact mediated through the evolved organism called a human being. A peculiar creature with certain needs and freedoms. How is this particular article important to creating a more rounded human being through a fulfillment of instinctual requirements for the flourishing of human beings? How does this further make this document humanist in its orientation?

Mazwienduna: Again, the context was mostly political and referred to how artists had been arrested for criticizing or even subtly insulting the regime. The likes of Thomas Mapfumo; a Zimbabwean Jazz legend had been in exile in the United Kingdom for decades all because a song of his criticized the then president Robert Mugabe. Oliver Mtukudzi, another Afro Jazz legend had his fare share of trouble for singing a song suggestive of Mugabe’s old age. So this came after years of campaigns against this tyranny. To the Zimbabwean government, politics is more important than religion and this was surprising yet relieving progress with regards to freedom of expression and speech where politics were concerned.

Jacobsen: Article 61(1)(c) stipulates academic freedom as a necessity within the freedom of expression article. What have been the most controversial parts of science and academic life for Zimbabweans in its history leading to the necessity for this freedom in spite of the offensive, factually incorrect, racist and xenophobic, or otherwise, research? How does freedom to research make an academic culture better rather than not, and a democratic society more democratic than not?

Mazwienduna: This gave freedom for university students to criticize the government in their academic theses or dissertations, something that was not allowed before. Robert Mugabe was the chancellor of all state university and I particularly remember when he caped us during the 2016 graduation ceremony, capping some students who had written theses criticizing him. This was unheard of before the 2013 constitution, and it was a big win for progress.

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: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

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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