The Sunday Mail
Sharon Munjenjema and Lincoln Towindo
Government schools will next year begin offering free basic education, while corporal punishment will be abolished in terms of a new law that is set to be introduced.
Authorities will amend the Education Act when Parliament resumes sitting early next year to align the law with Section 27 of the Constitution.
According to Section 27, “The State must take all practical measures to promote: (a) Free compulsory basic education for children; and (b) higher and tertiary education.”
Cabinet approved the Education Amendment Bill last week, which, among other things, promotes equitable development of schools across all regions, the learning of local languages and guarantees the rights of people with disabilities.
The Bill now awaits gazetting.
Briefing The Sunday Mail on Government’s 2019 legislative plan, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi also said Government will consider at least three different Constitutional amendments.
He said: “We have an amendment to the Education Bill, we want to give effect to the provisions in the Constitution, particularly those that deal with the requirement that the State has to fund basic education.
“The Bill also ensures that children that are also within a particular zone are not disadvantaged by those that come from other areas; they must be given priority and if they cannot get a place, then the headmasters of those schools should give a certificate so that they can go to the nearest zone.
“It will also deal with the area of teaching of our local languages; it will address the issue of teaching of children with disabilities — that facilities have to be availed to them.
“The Bill has been drafted, when we resume sitting it will be tabled in Parliament.
“That’s what the Constitution says that learners from Grade One to Seven should have their education funded because that is basic education.”
Free basic education was stopped during the early 1990’s at the height of Government’s Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) that witnessed massive reduction of funding for social services.
In a separate interview, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavima said: “The law basically enjoins the State to progressively fund the learning of every child.
“Tuition fees will be progressively done away with, while the issue of levies will be dealt with later on.”
He added that the proposed law would also require school authorities to use alternative means of disciplining pupils.
“The law will basically outlaw corporal punishment as way of disciplining a child,” said Minister Mavima.
“We have to come up with alternative ways of disciplining and do away with canning.”
Furthermore, Minister Ziyambi said the Constitution will be amended to extend the provision of the women’s quota in the National Assembly.
Section 124(b) of the Constitution provides for 60 additional seats for women Members of the National Assembly elected through a system of proportional representation based on the votes a party receives in a particular province.
The provision was set to subsist for the first two Parliaments and would fall away for the 2023 general elections.
However, Government intends to extend it.
Further amendments will also include the removal of clauses requiring Parliamentarians to sit in Provincial and Metropolitan Councils.
He said the contradiction between Section 67 and Section 281 will also be considered for possible review.
While Section 67 provides every citizen with the right to make political choices freely, it is in direct contradiction with provisions of Section 281 (2) (a), which bars traditional leaders from participating in politics.
Section 67 reads: “Every Zimbabwean citizen has the right: (a) to free, fair and regular elections for any elective public office established in terms of this Constitution or any other law; and (b) to make political choices freely.”
Section 281 (2) (a) provides that: “Traditional leaders must not be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics.”
He said the contradiction needs to be looked into with a view to amending the provisions.
“We have a lot of contradictions that are in the Constitution; one of them is that of MPs who sit in Parliament, they are allocated a budget and then they go to provincial councils and sit in those too, yet they are the ones who are supposed to supervise the council.
“We feel that there are inconsistencies there. The ideal thing is that they should not even sit in provincial councils. So debate is there that we have to amend the Constitution if we are to have efficient provincial councils.
“In the same way we also have several provisions within the Constitution that may be violating other people’s rights.
“I will give one (example) that is controversial that needs to be debated: Section 67 says that everyone has political rights, but there is a section on traditional leaders that says they should be apolitical and should not participate in politics.
“But Section 67 has one of the rights that are entrenched in Chapter Four of the Constitution on fundamental human rights. At law, where you have provisions that are conflicting, the one that gives more human rights prevails.”
He said there is need for harmonisation of the provisions to allow traditional leaders to enjoy the political rights that are bestowed to every Zimbabwean.
Minister Ziyambi said there will not be any constitutional amendment to change the Presidential age limit.
He said sections of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and Public Order and Security Act (POSA) will be repealed in order to allow more freedoms.
An omnibus Marriage Bill will be tabled to cater for all forms of marriages, including civil marriage and customary marriage, recognised at law.