By Andrew Kunambura
THE Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University (ZEGU) is not a theological college, but an education institution that trains students in various disciplines including law, social sciences and health, among others, and should not discriminate against learners along religious lines.
This was said by a student at the university, Modester Zinhanga, in her answering affidavit in a case in which she is challenging her disqualification from contesting in the Students Executive Council (SEC) elections.
Zinhanga was disqualified on the grounds that she was not a member of Zaoga church which runs the university, could not speak in tongues and was not “spirit-filled”.
The elections were due on November 12 but were suspended by High Court judge Justice Webster Chinamora Monday after Zinhanga, represented by advocate Wilbert Mandinde, approached the court challenging the university’s decision.
Advocate Mandinde is being instructed by Isheanesu Chirisa and Noble Chinhanu of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.
The matter is back in court on November 19 and in her answering affidavit, Zinhanga said the discrimination by the university was unfair because it admits everyone without any prior religious requirements like belonging to Zaoga as well as speaking in tongues.
“Their (ZEGU) admission requirements do not include speaking in tongues or membership in Zaoga or being spirit filled,” Zinganga said.
“Their programmes are not only theological but also to do with law, politics, economics, business leadership, social sciences, accounting and health. Their motto is, ‘Developing a total person and promoting entrepreneurship.’ This is the promise for which I enrolled which is now being challenged mid-game.”
She added: “I believe I am entitled to dream and plan a public leadership career at a tertiary institution which professes to confer degrees of leadership, social sciences, law and provides for students a representative council.
“This is still core business; it does not matter whether or not I will be successful in politics. I deserve a chance.”
She said it was sad to note that the university’s dean of students thinks that it was laughable and wishful thinking that I was dreaming of public leadership.
She denied violating the new rules by the institution in the student handbook which amended section nine and introduced the new requirements that only church members would contest for SEC posts. She said the amendment violated the Constitution and was thus “invalid to the extent of its inconsistency”.
“I do not have to convert to Christianity to enjoy any constitutional rights in terms of our law. This suggestion is an indication of the respondents’ bid to violate freedoms of conscience and religion,” Zinhanga said.
She said the handbook contradicted the SEC constitution pertaining to eligibility of nominees to the student representative body.
“The student already admits that there is in existence the SEC constitution which was left unamended and in terms of which previous SEC elections were held. It therefore remained in place as well. With such a position, I was not entirely certain that any of my rights would be infringed until I would be assessed on the basis of the handbook as opposed to the SEC constitution,” Zinhanga submitted.