Education minister Lazarus Dokora’s name has become synonymous with controversy, but his latest push to force the controversial National Pledge seems to have touched a raw nerve.
OBEY MANAYITI/RICHARD CHIDZA
Dokora has been dragged to the Constitutional Court by disgruntled parents who want the pledge to be declared unconstitutional.
On the other hand, Christian groups have resorted to all manner of protests, including prayer meetings, to put pressure on the minister to scrap the pledge ,arguing that it violates their values.
Dokora has become unpopular for making “rush decisions” relating to the education sector and early this year riled parents across the country after announcing that all school-going children would be required to occasionally recite the national pledge.
The pledge consists of lines picked from the preamble to the country’s Constitution adopted at a referendum in early 2013.
Churches have warned Dokora that they would soon mobilise for nationwide demonstrations to force him to drop the pledge.
Schools opened last Tuesday but a survey by The Standard showed reluctance on the part of teachers to implement the pledge, while other students showed no zeal in reciting it.
Bishop Ancelimo Magaya of the Zimbabwe Divine Destiny (ZDD) said the pledge goes against Christian values.
“From our perspective as church, we want to make a submission that the national pledge is rejected, totally out of hand,” Magaya said.
“The reasons are that the pledge states we salute the national flag and the national flag is a lifeless object that cannot be saluted. Salutation of that object is tantamount to idolatry, which is worshiping other things other than God himself.”
He added: “It is also contrary to the word of God which is the bible so we don’t worship the deity and the ancestors as a church and then to over-generalise that all our traditions and cultures be upheld, it simply means that we are really infringing on people’s rights.”
Magaya said if their views were not listened to, they would be left with no option other than going to the streets to express their anger.
“We are ready to put up massive demonstrations to resist that. I really don’t see how they will enforce that pledge because it has to be recited and people will not recite it,” he said.
“Some may, but our children and their parents will not endorse that. They should understand they don’t own those children; the children have parents and churches where they learn Christian values.”
Christian Voice International Zimbabwe (CVI-Z) weighed in, saying the government was acting irresponsibly, accusing the minister of trying to impose Moslem beliefs on the education sector.
“We are in solidarity with the Christian community in categorically refuting the government’s imposed pledge which they are forcing down our throats,” CVI-Z leader Tapfumaneyi Zenda said.
“If they claim that Zimbabwe is a democracy, why then are they imposing this thing on us?, they have forgotten that the silence and no violent reactions to social and political injustices they have induced on Zimbabweans is due to Christian teachings.”
Zenda said churches were not against the national pledge, but its contents.
There have been various theories put forward by different people on the reasons why Dokora introduced the pledge, some alleging that he is a member of the Muslim community.
However, The Standard tried without success to get the minister to shed more light on the pledge as the reporter was constantly referred to the uncooperative public relations department.
Dokora yesterday said emailed questions “will be sent to appropriate departments.”
Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) leader Shingi Munyeza revealed consultations with Dokora were underway.
“We are in total discussions with the ministry of Education in order to understand government’s intentions in introducing the pledge in the first place,” he said.
“We will make our position known but meanwhile, we are not at liberty to divulge the same.”
Christians in Bulawayo two weeks ago congregated as part of the fight to force Dokora to reverse the pledge, with a plan to gather as many as 20 000 signatures to form a petition.
It was a follow-up meeting to a prayer meeting held two weeks ago where Christians across denominations gathered at Presbyterian Church in the country’s second largest city and prayed for two hours before receiving feedback on their resolutions.
Dumisani Nkomo, Habakkuk Trust executive director, said the submission of papers with the Constitutional Court was underway.
An Apostolic Faith Mission man represented by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights’s David Hofisi, has taken Dokora to the Constitutional Court, arguing the national pledge would force his children to exalt “secular phenomena.”