Yesterday, 7 May 2021, Zimbabweans from all walks of life made a clear statement.
“We shall not watch while our Constitution is being mutilated.”
Speaking at the #ResistDicatorship Constitution Rally hosted by ZimRights, Zimbabwe Peace Project, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, and We Lead, Zimbabweans vowed to get personally involved if the politicians put their dirty hands on the sacred Charter. The rally brought Zimbabweans from every corner of the world. Over 2000 Zimbabweans registered for the event, with thousands more following online. In a show of citizen convergence, the rally brought actors from all parts of the country including speakers from Gwanda, Masvingo, Bulawayo, and the Diaspora. It brought civil society actors, citizen groups, women’s groups, academics, trade unionists, and artists.
The hosts of the rally were long-time human rights activist and torture survivor Jestina Mukoko and citizen activist and founder of This Flag movement Pastor Evan Mawarire. Leading investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, human rights lawyers Nikiwe Ncube and Paida Saurombe, lawyer and activist Siphosami Malunga who called himself ‘a son of the struggle’, leading youth activist Namatai Kwekweza and firebrand grassroots mobiliser from Masvingo Entrance Takaedza were part of the crowd that spoke against the butchering of the Constitution.
ZCTU President Mr. Peter Mutasa emphasised that it is time for people to fight collectively. “We call for a second National Working Peoples’ Convention,” said Mr. Mutasa inviting the people of Zimbabwe to unite and strategise against the increasing repression and poverty.
We Lead Director and leading anti-amendment activist Namatai Kwekweza said the future of young people depends on the Constitution. “These people (the government) are altering the standard upon which Zimbabweans agreed in 2013 to be governed.” Said Namatai.
Amai Takaedza, a ZimRights activist from Masvingo said as rural citizens, they were still waiting to see the 2013 Constitution in action, only to be told that it’s already being changed. “Chinhu choruzhinji chinongoda jekerere. Apa pakuita zvekudzvanyirirana.” (A public process must be done transparently. What we are seeing is repression.”
Investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono said all the problems Zimbabwe is facing can be traced back to a failure to uphold the values of Constitutionalism by the current government. He said the solution lies in ensuring that communities understand the link between their problems and lack of Constitutionalism. He urged young people as the agents of change to go out into the communities and explain to their mothers and parents why the constitution matters. “Do so in the language that they understand. Do not take the elitist debate to the rural areas.”
Other speakers at the rally included Dr. Thomas Mapfumo who dismissed the government as illegitimate and said people should not expect a legitimate process from an illegitimate government.
As the meeting took to action, ZimRights National Director launched a petition against the amendments inviting the thousands of delegates who were following the conversation to plug-in and resist the amendments. The petition called for the President Emmerson Mnangagwa not to sign the bill into law; the Chief Justice to honour the Constitution and vacate office on the 15th of May 2021 and the Parliament to repent from its misguided bill. The petition immediately garnered over 2000 signatures in the first hour as delegates made it viral. Mr. Siphosami Malunga of the Open Society of Southern Africa concluded by calling citizens to act. He said freedom is not free and that people must stand up for their rights.
The rally closed with a powerful performance by Cape Town-based Mae Sithole who sang House of Stone, bemoaning the breaking of liberation promises by Zimbabwe’s leaders.