Women activists are urging Zimbabweans to vote “yes” in the upcoming constitutional referendum as a means of unlocking the political deadlock in the country, ending the economic crisis and promoting the rights of women.
The activists, who were speaking in Harare at an event organized by the United States Embassy in the capital city to commemorate Black History Month, called for a yes vote to the draft constitution.
Former liberation war fighter and one of the first women to form a political party in Zimbabwe, Margaret Dongo, said Zimbabweans should unite and end what she called the four-year political stalemate that exists in the country.
Chairperson of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, Netsai Mushonga, said her organisation was lobbying women to vote yes for the constitution because for the first time since independence the draft constitution promotes the rights of women.
Mushonga said the draft charter includes certain provisions for women that have not appeared in previous drafts or the Lancaster Constitution.
The discussion was held in honour of Rosa Parks, a black American woman who was a key figure in the movement to secure civil rights for African Americans.
Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person, as was the law in the U-S state of Alabama at the time. Her arrest sparked a successful bus boycott and other non-violent actions that changed laws across the American south in the 1950s and 60s.
Zimbabwe’s referendum is set for March 16 and national elections are then expected later in the year.
In the draft charter, fundamental human rights and freedoms are detailed in part 2 of Chapter 4 of the document. Specifically, Section 58, titled “Freedom of assembly and association” states: “Every person has the right to freedom of assembly and association, and the right not to assemble or associate with others.”
The document further states: “No person may be compelled to belong to an association or to attend a meeting or gathering.”
As a number of civil society organizations in Zimbabwe are being challenged by the police for holding public meetings the police say are illegal, Effie Dlela-Ncube, chairman of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (NANGO), said this provision of the draft constitution should protect the rights of civil society groups and others whose meetings are broken up.
For details, check out the full draft constitution or our constitution at a glance. Both documents can be downloaded from our website, www.voazimbabwe.com. Here is the link: http://www.voazimbabwe.com/info/constitutional-referendum-2013/3768.html