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 perspective, and more.
Here we talk about the freedom of expression within the context of the Zimbabwean 2013 Constitution.
*Interview conducted on July 18, 2020.*
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: The fundamental right to the freedom of expression comes from several important documents and formed, naturally, as a consequence of international (‘globalist’) integration with many nations coming together, which can be influenced by intra-national social dynamics and political life – as the American case shows now, live. What have been some of the intra-national contexts in which Zimbabwe struggled to attain the rights for freedom of expression?
Takudzwa Mazwienduna: The most notable intra national context that has been an impediment to the freedom of expression in Zimbabwe has to be repressive legislation from the colonial times that is still used today. The Zimbabwean constitution has since been reformed but it is more or less irrelevant today since we are literally a military state. The government typically sends soldiers to terrorize citizens who protest or oppose it.
Jacobsen: How were the international contexts, e.g., the United Nations, important for providing a recipe or a framework for provision of the fundamental right of freedom of expression to the Zimbabwean people?
Mazwienduna: They pressured for the 2013 constitution reform. They however have no control on the abuse of these constitutional rights by the state using the military today.
Jacobsen: Article 61(2) of the Zimbabwean Constitution (2013) states, “Every person is entitled to freedom of the media, which freedom includes protection of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources of information.” What is this reflecting in the life of the media of Zimbabwe?
Mazwienduna: Those were some of the constitutional reforms of 2013. The government seldom respects them today and journalists continue to be abducted or arbitrarily arrested. A famous case is that of Itai Dzamara.
Jacobsen: You noted some of the problems for journalists in the past. How about now? What are the issues facing journalists in Zimbabwe now?
Mazwienduna: While their rights have been acknowledged in the constitution, the military force throws it all down the gutter. Journalists continue to be terrorized and victimized today.
Jacobsen: Even with Article 61(2) of the Zimbabwean Constitution, the confidentiality of the journalists’ sources is paramount; unless, one is doing an expose and the source wants to, as someone said recently to me, “Go nuclear.” I find this inclusion in Article 61 subsection (2) interesting because I note the precision of the statements targeting journalists and confidentiality, as well as “sources of information,” i.e., the individuals who are providing information and the data itself. What were the prominent cases involved in the inclusion of this part of the Zimbabwean Constitution? I am fascinated by this inclusion above.
Mazwienduna: There was a case of Baba Jukwa who was like the Zimbabwean version of wikileaks during the Mugabe era. He was a government insider leaking a lot of sensitive information and his court case made media waves when they finally captured him. He might have been working with some government factions however which is probably the reason he got off easy.
Jacobsen: How do journalists in Zimbabwe protect their sources?
Mazwienduna: They seldom mention their sources, but it has a downside with relation to fake news. It is common to hear several unverifiable claims citing anonymous government sources in a single week.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Takudzwa.
Mazwienduna: 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-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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Image Credit: Takudzwa Mazwienduna.