By Robert Tapfumaneyi
THE Constitutional Court (ConCourt) Monday ruled the national pledge was unconstitutional; a violation of school children’s right to freedom of conscience and it also violated parental rights.
The ruling was made four years after an application was filed in 2016 by Mathew Sogolani, an aggrieved parent, challenging the government’s move to force all school children to recite a national pledge.
He argued the pledge violated children’s rights.
The contentious national pledge was introduced by the government in May 2016 to be recited by all pupils enrolled in primary and secondary schools.
Sogolani through his lawyer, David Hofisi from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said he has three minor children enrolled in infant, primary and secondary schools who were being forced to recite the national pledge the contrary to the family’s religious beliefs.
Part of the national pledge reads; “Almighty God, in whose hands our future lies, I salute the national flag. United in our diversity by our common desire from freedom, justice and equality. Respecting the brave fathers and mothers who lost lives in the Chimurenga/Umvukela and national liberation struggles. We are proud inheritors of the richness of our natural resources. We are proud inheritors of the richness of our natural resources. We are creators and participants in our vibrant traditions and cultures. We commit to honesty and the dignity of hard work.”
Sogolani, a member of the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) church, argued the pledge was offensive to his faith as it includes secular salutations in an address to Almighty God.
Hofisi told the court the pledge would vitiate Sogolani’s rights to dignity, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and equal protection of the law – rights that are all enshrined in the Constitution.
The human rights lawyer added that the pledge is formulated “in the manner of an oath, a prayer and seems, in the very least, a religious observance”.