HARARE – Lazarus Dokora, Primary and Secondary Education minister, cannot spin his way out of this purposely-created travesty.
Sir, your Zanu PF party is taking away my democracy. You are my minister or rep. I am your constituent.
At least 95 percent of Zimbabweans on March 16 voted in a referendum to adopt a new Constitution expressly granting free primary education.
And you, Sir, decide to deny Zimbabweans that fundamental constitutional right! Why?
Surely, this is not about cash, and every one of your party members clearly knows this.
Dokora told the Senate last week: “We are facing challenges in the economy to carry out that mandate that our children should attend primary education for free.
“Once we have enough funds to support the programme, which is our new Constitution requirement, we are going to carry it out.”
Now, this is blatantly unconstitutional and unheard of.
A whole minister actively urging the legislature to ignore a constitutional provision that Zimbabweans took four years trying to enact!
The State has a duty to implement the new Constitution in its entirety, not sections it likes.
Parliament must defend the constitution.
It is surprising that opposition MDC legislators just rolled over and accepted this sodomy of the Zimbabwe Constitution without even a whimper.
Perhaps the MDC lawmakers are still too traumatised with the July 31 blowout.
One would have hoped the MDC would have made this their Waterloo.
The MDC lawmakers’ silence in the face of such blatant violation of the constitution they swore to uphold flies in the face of oft-repeated claims that they are pro-democracy social democrats.
With all due respect, the MDC must get over the July 31, disaster and start adding value to the legislature.
This conspiracy by the MDC and Zanu PF to deny the people their inalienable constitutional right to free primary education, signed by the President on May 22, cannot go unchallenged.
Three times, Dokora insisted that the Zimbabwean people must continue paying for primary education and that our constitutional right could just go pound sand.
Three times, the Zanu PF minister said those struggling to pay fees should make payment plans with school authorities in the clearest intentions to overturn in a single swipe this constitutional right and many others ostensibly because there is no cash.
“However we are not going to allow children to be sent away for failure to pay their schools, we encourage parents and headmasters to reach an agreement on that issue,” Dokora told senators to ‘ayes’ in the upper house.
Instead of implementing the new Constitution, Dokora is proposing an amendment to the Education Act to outlaw barring pupils who fail to raise cash for fees from class — a blatant assault on the constitution which infact scraps all fees at primary level.
“We are made to understand School Development Committees are responsible for sending away school children who fail to pay their fees but we are going to come up with an amendment to stop that and empower the headmasters to have more power to stop SDC from doing that,” Dokora.
This is crass violation of the new Zimbabwe Constitution, which replaced a 33-year-old document forged in the dying days of British colonial rule.
This is about operational costs of the Zimbabwe government failing to win authorisation by the Senate representatives.
It is about condonation of an illegality by one arm of the State called the legislature.
While enforcing the new Constitution is, in fact, the Senators and indeed Dokora’s constitutional obligation, this action shows a government abdicating its responsibility. Period!
Surely, there will be tonnes and tonnes of money to subsidise primary education if everyone stopped stealing.
For example, the $550 million that Morgan Tsvangirai says was stolen from diamonds in 2012 can subsidise primary education annually.
The action by Dokora and the Senate to duck responsibility to give the people their inalienable constitutional right is an attempt by 90 elected representatives of the Senate to complete a hostile takeover of the Zimbabwean government, on their own, and supplant the Constitution.
Cash has NOTHING to do with this action.
While Dokora gleefully speaks of parents making payment arrangements, more and more parents in drought-ravaged areas in Zimbabwe are struggling to raise funds to send their children to school.
The UN says 2,2 million face starvation in Zimbabwe.
The Senate is significantly responsible for the denial of a chance to Jervas Manyarhule to finish primary education, for trapping him in a cycle of poverty herding cattle in Mahenye.
This is not an action by the President, who has no place on the floor of the Senate.
This is an action by the Zimbabwean Senate, accepting a lame excuse that we will not implement terms of the new Constitution because there is no money.
The Senate must provide the government with funds necessary to do the will of the people, provide the programmes and services, and insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare of the people.
Have the honourable members forgotten their duties and responsibilities?
That includes ensuring that all those other constitutional requirements the people demanded are implemented to the letter, too.
These lawmakers, led by Dokora, intend to not only re-litigate the popularly elected Zimbabwe Constitution, but to emasculate it now.
This is a continuing philosophy.
Through a conspiracy of silence, the MDC and Zanu PF have unified around, and pledged to complete the necessary outcomes of this philosophy.
So what can we do about it?
Perhaps, make it a point to let every single elected official you know feel your pain. Write letters. Make phone calls. Begin or sign petitions. Speak with your neighbours. Citizens can do that, still.
With all this belt-tightening, it is time to demand our rights from government.
After all, it is the politicians who largely wrote this Constitution through that three-headed monster called ‘‘Copac.’’
There are young Zimbabwean citizens today who, through absolutely no fault of their own, are not able to finish primary education.
With 25 percent unable to complete Grade 7 annually, those numbers will necessarily grow because government is running away from its responsibilities.
To complete their plan to stonewall the delivery of this constitutional right, it is the stated intent of these lawmakers to hide behind fiscal space arguments.
Zimbabwe’s education sector takes up a meager 4 percent of GDP. The budget is $3.4 billion, you do the math.
Already, government is pending peanuts on primary education and more and more Zimbabwean citizens are being negatively impacted by this refusal to implement provisions of the new charter on free primary education.
Meanwhile, the new Constitution is supposed to be active, and millions of people were now looking at the possibility of government providing free primary education for their families.
We are not reinventing the wheel here.
In 1980, primary education was almost free, including supplementary feeding that Dokora now claims government cannot afford.
Again, government can afford to make primary education free if fat cats in government stop stealing.
For some 12 million Zimbabweans, this is a never-before seen reality.
Of course, for those Senators who have refused to permit this opportunity for free primary education, things could not be better.
Since we cannot all afford free primary education, how about taking $6,5 million budgeted to purchase 100 Ford Rangers for the government fleet and allocate it to the free primary education subsidy?
Or deny all the 350 legislators the VW Amarok trucks they are gleefully rubbing their hands for, and subsidise primary education?
No one is buying the cash shortage excuse, Mr Dokora, Sir.
The question is a simple one. Should the Zimbabwe Parliament continue to condone the violation of the new Constitution and not defend it.
Parliament should be leading the charge to deliver this right, not this excuse to abrogate the constitution.
To the legislators, this is a cynical and immoral stance for anyone to take, but all the more so when that person is an elected State official who does not lose their pay during this drama, by the way.
The people of Zimbabwe should be all kinds of annoyed, but not as Zanu PF with its “four thirds”
legislative majority. Not as MDC. Not as the smaller MDC, with a paltry two seats in parliament!
You should be all kinds of annoyed because the Senate is attempting to dissolve the Constitution, take away the rights of all citizens, and institute the government they want.
No one should be allowed to repeal the Constitution, including members of parliament and minsters who should know better.