WASHINGTON DC —
Members of various church denominations staged a peaceful demonstration in Harare today expressing their dismay over Zimbabwe’s newly-introduced national pledge that is being forcibly recited by school children.
This came at a time when street traders also picketed at the Harare City Council offices, demanding that municipal police should stop confiscating their wares.
More than 300 placard-waving members of various churches, under the banner of an inter-denominational group calling itself Prayer Network of Zimbabwe, marched in Harare’s central business district demanding that the Ministry of Education should halt the reciting of the national pledge, which has been allegedly imposed on Zimbabwean children.
Leader of the network, Jacob Ngarivhume, who is also the president of the opposition Transform Zimbabwe party, told the protestors outside the ministry’s offices that the national pledge violated their constitutional right to freedom of worship.
Farai Makuwe, chairperson of the Prayer Network of Zimbabwe, echoed the same sentiments, questioning the role of Dokora in enforcing the national pledge.
A student, who declined to be named in fear of being victimized, claimed that some teachers are beating up children that are refusing to recite the national pledge.
The demonstrators, who were carrying the Holy Cross and singing church songs, failed to meet Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora, who was said to be attending a meeting elsewhere. However, the protestors met some education officials who received their petition. Some of the placards read: “No to Satanism”.
Acting permanent secretary in the ministry, Peter Muzavazi, who received the petition, told the demonstrators that his ministry would respond to their concerns after meeting with Dokora.
Zimbabwe’s Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku recently dismissed an urgent chamber application by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to stay the reciting of the national pledge in schools until the court makes a ruling on the case. The Constitutional Court will only hear the matter in June.
The national pledge reads as follows in part, “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.”
In a related development, some vendors staged a demonstration at Town House today demanding that municipal police should stop confiscating their goods.
Chairperson of the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe, Stan Zvorwadza, said street traders were not happy with council officials who were confiscating their wares.
Council spokesperson, Michael Chideme, told the demonstrators that vendors should trade at designated points to avoid the confiscation of their goods.
Chideme told the vendors to put all their concerns in writing promising that council would seek to address all their issues.