Members of various church organizations, under the banner of the Prayer Network of Zimbabwe, staged a peaceful demonstration in Harare on Monday demanding the resignation of Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora over the government’s introduction of the national pledge in schools.
The churches argue that the pledge violates their right to freedom of worship.
The more than 100 members of the Prayer Network of Zimbabwe gathered in central Harare urging Dokora to leave office within two days for imposing the national pledge on their children.
The demonstrators, who were holding Holy Crosses and placards with messages denouncing Dokora, addressed people in bank queues and bus termini as well as busy road intersections before passing through parliament on their way to the minister’s office.
There was a near scuffle between anti-riot police and the demonstrators just outside parliament when police unsuccessfully tried to block them from proceeding with their march. The situation was saved by some leaders of the protest group who showed the police a clearance letter that was issued by some top officers, resulting in the demonstrators singing even louder.
One of the demonstrators, Obert Masaraure, who is also the president of the Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, said most teachers in the countryside were against the education ministry’s directive to force schoolchildren to recite the national pledge.
Another demonstrator, Patson Dzamara, said it was now time for the church to join forces with other activists to ensure that the government meets the demands of ordinary Zimbabweans.
Reverend Ancelom Magaya, who also participated in the march, said there were many things that the national pledge violates, adding that its introduction was tantamount to promoting Satanism.
He added that instead of introducing the national pledge, the government must fulfill other issues that it pledged to do, such as providing jobs.
Prayer Network of Zimbabwe founder and president, Jacob Ngarivhume, told the demonstrators that allowing children to recite the national pledge was unconstitutional and ungodly.
The protest was also graced by some politicians such as Zunde leader Farai Mbire, Dare leader Mathias Dzikiti and leader of the MDCT youth Assembly, Happymore Chidziva as well as representatives of some civil society organizations.
Mbire told the gathering that the time was now ripe for President Mugabe to leave office. He said the government’s policies were not meeting the expectations of the people.
Some representatives of the demonstrators left a petition at Dokora’s office where they met with his deputy, Larry Mavhima. Mavhima told Studio 7 that there was nothing his ministry could say because the national pledge is before the courts.
Mavhima said the demonstrators also demanded a national referendum on the national pledge but he noted that this was a very long and expensive process.
The protestors left an assortment of placards at the entrance of Dokora’s office.
The national pledge reads as follows, “Almighty God, in whose hands our future lies, I salute the national flag. Respecting the brave fathers and mothers who lost lives in the Chimurenga/Umvukela.
“We are proud inheritors of the richness of our natural resources. We are proud creators and participants in our vibrant traditions and cultures. So I commit to honesty and the dignity of hard work.”