Wednesday, March 10, 2010

By Media and Publications Officer

In a rare moment of unity, togetherness and purposefulness, political parties operational in Matabeleland converged together to come up with a common regional position on the constitution courtesy of the Habakkuk Trust constitutional sector meeting.

The meeting that was held at the Habakkuk Trust Umkhankaso Centre on Friday 5 March 2010 had regional representatives from both factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC and MDC-T), Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), United People’s Party (UPP) and Patriotic Union of Matabeleland (PUMA).
Of commonality from all the parties was devolution of power, which they said is non-negotiable, and should be enshrined in the constitution. Other issues that strongly resonated from all the parties were issues to do with limited powers of the executive, clear separation of powers in the executive, the judiciary and the legislature. They also agreed that the tenure of office for the presidency should be a maximum of two terms and each term should be five years.

Minor differences, however, were evident on the kind of legislature, as some preferred a bi-cameral system and others were of the one house parliament where the senate is abolished as they said it is a strain to the fiscal resources. There were also some minor differences on the electoral systems to be used though the majority of them opted for proportional representation and only MDC-T preferred what they termed the hybrid system which is a mixture of both proportional representation and first past the post system.

The Habakkuk Trust sector meetings on the constitution continue today (09 March 2010) with a sector meeting for Councilors which is expected to be attended by all Councilors from the City of Bulawayo and will focus more on systems of government.
By Khumbulani Maphosa (Media and Publications Officer)

Participants at the Habakkuk Trust sector meeting organised for non-citizens/aliens have underscored the need for the new constitution to realise the importance of dual citizenship and provide it to its citizens.

Contributing during the proceedings of the meeting, participants noted that some of them were born in Zimbabwe and they know nothing of their ancestral countries and therefore they should be accorded Zimbabwean citizenship. They said dual citizenship would make it easy for children of aliens to be realized as Zimbabwean citizens and have full enjoyment of human rights in their country of birth.

Mr G. Moyo an educationist by profession bemoaned the rampant discrimination and disrespect of human rights in the country, based on ethnic lines. He said most descents of Malawi and Zambia are treated as second-class citizens in Zimbabwe, which ironically is their country of Birth. He therefore demanded that ‘aliens should get equal rights and enjoy equal rights and privileges as other citizens.’
He further challenged the use of derogatory and discriminatory terms used in the country’s national documents, terms such as ‘extra territorial students’ for non-citizen students, and ‘aliens’ which is used in the national Identity cards referring to those not of Zimbabwean origin.
Commenting on the same issue Mrs S. Sakala suggested that ‘kungathini ukuthi bafake ilizwe engivela kulo kulokuthi u Alien?’ (Why can’t they indicate my country of origin instead of using the word alien?). Other participants also suggested the use of acronyms such as NC or FC (Non-Citizen and Foreign Citizen respectively) instead of Alien.
Participants also stressed the need for non-citizen children to be accorded equal educational opportunities with local students. They therefore called for the scrapping of the additional foreign levy that they pay in schools and ensuring that their students are also awarded scholarships.

The Habakkuk Trust Constitutional Sector meetings continue today (05 March 2010) with a sector meeting for all the political parties operating in the Matabeleland Region.
By Khumbulani Maphosa (Information and Publicity Officer)

Participants at the Habakkuk Trust sector meeting for Youths and Children have underscored the need for the National Youth Service not to be constitutionalised so as to protect it from being politically usurped.

Speaking during the proceedings of the sector think tank meeting on the 25th February 2010, most participants who included youths, students and representatives of youth organisations said ‘the national youth service should not be a political issue but a national agenda with the interests of the youths and the nation’.
They further demanded that the Youths Service should be a platform for job creation and an area for skills training. It was thus resolved that the National Youth Service should not be put in the constitution but should be looked at as a strategy for Youth Empowerment and Development.

Other issues that were raised included the recognition of the rights of children of offenders especially when they are with their parents in prison.
Mrs Mlala from Childline further probed the new constitution to consider the rights of children who are in conflict with the law. She was concerned that child offenders are sometimes publicly humiliated which violates their rights as children.

Other key issues that were debated included the need for the legal age of majority to be raised from 18 years to 21 years, the democratization of the Junior Council and enshrining Education as a right for every child.
By Khumbulani Maphosa (Media and Publications Officer)

Participants in the sector meeting organised for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) have underscored the need for the constitution to guarantee free access to medication for People Living with HIV/AIDS and enshrine the right to health as a basic human right.

During a meeting that was attended by 35 participants and held at the Habakkuk Trust Boardroom on Wednesday 24 February 2010, participants also stressed the need for the decentralization of all medical services. Mrs S. Nyathi, from National AIDS Council stressed that the new constitution should ‘decentralize HIV and AIDS treatment just like any other condition’ and further challenged the PLWHAs themselves to think beyond ‘access to treatment and look at constitutional mechanisms of fighting stigma and further transmissions’. These sentiments were further echoed by a representative of a government parastatals, Mrs Brenda Homela who suggested that the constitution should make decentralization provisions that will ensure that ‘people be given ART at the workplace as they waste many valuable time traveling to queue at the OI clinics during working hours’. She said this could be very practical especially to those companies and parastatals that have ‘workplace medical clinics’ like the National Railways of Zimbabwe among others.

There was also debate on the use of the AIDS Levy currently being collected by government from civil servants. Most participants felt that the AIDS levy should benefit mostly those who are poor. Mr Davies Mazodze, a Lecturer and HIV Activists stated that ‘the private sector should also start contributing something to the AIDS Levy so that we can gather more resources for deserving people’.

The major issues that came out as constitutional issues from the meeting were issues to do with; the right to health, the right to access to medication, universal access to treatment, right not to be discriminated, the right to housing in spite of your HIV status, the right to Adequate medical information so as to fight stigma, discrimination and the continued spread of HIV and AIDS and the right to access state resources to curb the effects of HIV and AIDS.

The sector think tanks will continue on the 25th of February with one on Youths and Children.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

By Khumbulani Maphosa (Media and Publications Officer)

The right to education should be a right for every individual and the government should have an obligation to ensure that it provides quality, affordable and accessible education to all. Participants made this call during the Education Sector Think Tank meeting held at the Habakkuk Trust Boardroom on 23 February 2010.

The meeting was attended by 31 participants who included students, teachers, members of Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), members of various School Development Associations and some civic society members concerned with the education sector.
Anele Dube from Matabeleland Empowerment Campaign stressed the need for tertiary institution in the region to adopt a quota system whereby a ‘large percentage of the students should be people from the region where the university is located’.
Mr Enock Paradzayi from PTUZ also presented some of the key issues they would want to see appearing in the constitution as an organisation. Some of them include: Accessible and affordable higher and tertiary education, fees that are not way above the salaries of government workers, government intervention in the operations of private schools so as to ensure quality and non-discriminatory education, education being done in minority languages, teaching being recognized as a profession, minimum wages above the poverty datum line, the right to participate in collective bargaining, among other issues.
‘What the human mind is to a teacher, is what the body is to a doctor’ explained Mr Paradzayi who was passionate about the issue of temporary teachers and lack of an independent teacher self-regulatory body.

Some participants further called for a constitution that will ensure that the education system of this country produces a wholesome human being and one that is ‘cognizance of the socio-economic needs of the society’. This they claimed can be achieved if the country ‘adopt a two-tier education system, that is, an academic and vocational system’ suggested Mr Printah Nkala a University Lecturer.

Mr Dumisani Ndlovu who represented ZIMTA stressed the need for ‘a law that questions any child of school going age who is seen not going to school’. This will also be complimented by ‘policies that may arrest a parent or guardian or parent who is able but does not take responsibility’ of sending a child to school.