On 25 October 2018, Kadoma-based author and community based builder Believe Guta who in June this year launched his first ever inspirational book, ‘Hard Times Never Kill’ challenged the country’s Constitution on youth issues by petitioning the Parliament of Zimbabwe.
Guta petitioned the country’s supreme law making body citing loopholes in the current Zimbabwean Constitution which he said should be repealed to accommodate youths as well as advocating for youth involvement in different commissions that are constitutionally centred.
Guta argued that the Constitution does not give the youths enough security in the face of law preferring to distinguish constitutional objectives versus rights.
The petitioner, a 31 year old young adult and Zimbabwean citizen by birth challenged the parliament to procure through its processes an act of parliament for the establishment of the Zimbabwe Youth Commission.
Guta noted in his petition that section 20 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe places five fundamental obligations on the state and all agencies of the government which are; to ensure that the youths are accorded access to appropriate education and training, to ensure that the youths have opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life, to ensure that the youths are afforded opportunities for employment and other avenues to economic empowerment, to ensure that the youths have opportunities for recreational activities and access to recreational facilities and to ensure that the youths are protected from harmful cultural practices, exploitation and all forms of abuse.
Having said that, Guta argued that while the supreme law of the country places the above obligations on the state and all agencies of the government there are no mechanisms that are in place to enforce and ensure that the state and all agencies of government are complying with the legal obligations imposed upon them in terms of the Constitution.
The youthful writer added that all state institutions and all agencies of government at every level including town councils, commissions, RBZ Board, NSSA Board and many more should have youth representatives and policies aligned to section 20 of the Constitution.
In making the submission, Guta said he ‘Believed’ that the youths are not only leaders tomorrow but leaders today as well. The constituency makes up the majority of the Zimbabwean population hence they should be promoted by every government policy.
He added that to make sure that the cited section of the Constitution is complied with, there is a need for the Parliament to establish a Youth Commission which will inspect to see if agencies of the state and government are complying with section 20 of the Constitution.
Speaking on the move by the youthful writer, Constitutional law experts James Tsabora said the petition by Guta is a clear indication that Zimbabwe has bright prospect in its youth systems which are brave enough to challenge the supreme law making body.
“This is a chorus that has been sang by a number of associations that have been championing youth issues. Sections 20 of the Constitutions creates platform for national policy but not constitutional right. It obligates the government to create a national policy,” commented Dr Tsabora.
Dr Tsabora said this equates to the scenario were by the current government passed the Gender Law to compel a 50-50 gender representation, thus the youth policy will also compel the government to make sure they have youth representation which is what the petitioner is pushing for.
“It is the boy’s right, section 149 of the Constitution give people of Zimbabwe the right to petition the parliament on any issues arising,” said Dr Tsabora.
He added, “I hear there are some developments to this issue, but it has to be made clear whether the developments are towards objectives or rights, It has to be clear from the word go.”
Speaking on the same issues National Association of Youth Organizations (NAYO) pogrammes manager MacDonald Munyoro said they are actually picked the same issues that was raised by Guta in the press and started the ball rolling on that front as NAYO.
“We actually picked this from the press and as NAYO, we have decided to help the youths constituency push for the commission which will represent them. This is something that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee through parliament is now tasked to look at and say is this something that young people could need,” said Munyoro.
Munyoro went on to point out loopholes poised by section 20 of the Constitution which is supposed to be giving the youth constituency enough security.
“The sad thing is that while we are recognized through section 20 of the Constitution, it falls under the national objectives of the Constitution. So in essence, when the government looks at the national objectives, those in essence are meant to guide government in terms of coming up with policy frame works that relate to that specific constituency. Unlike the women, they went further to appear in the national objective and also to appear in the section that elaborates the rights of specific groups. We for instance in the Constitution, apart from a national objective laying the policy focus and thrust of government to women, it also goes further to guarantee certain rights which you can then begging to demand at law. The government has got no option but to avail those specific rights to women which I think then places us as youth in a difficult place. Despite being recognized through section 20, but when government looks at it at law, it might not have that binding strong commitments when it comes to young people.”
He added, “This then leaves us as youths with a homework to be creative and say what then do we do with section 20. I think what this young man has done, for me constitutes some of the creative thinking that is emerging from young people to say, how do we make this Constitution begin to work and save us. There is no mechanism in section 20 that guarantees specific rights of youths.However, with the Youth Commission in place, it will then assume specific roles specifically for the youth constituency.”