THE Constitutional Court will on Wednesday 01 February 2017 preside over an application filed by a parent who is challenging the government’s move to force all school children to recite a national pledge he views as “fascist propaganda”.
The contentious national pledge, which was introduced in May, last year, is recited by all pupils enrolled at the country’s primary and secondary schools.
With assistance from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Mathew Sogolani, a parent against the mandatory pledge, immediately challenged the constitutionality of the national pledge, arguing that it violates his children and his own constitutional rights.
In his application, Sogolani, whose three minor children are enrolled in infant, primary and secondary schools respectively, argues that forcing children to recite contents of the pledge run contrary to the family’s religious beliefs.
A member of the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) church, Sogolani is represented by David Hofisi of ZLHR.
Hofisi filed the urgent application in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday 19 April 2016 wherein he petitioned the apex court to suspend the requirement that schoolchildren recite the pledge pending the determination of the main application filed earlier in the month.
Hofisi said his client finds the national pledge offensive to his faith as it includes secular salutations in an address to Almighty God.
Hofisi argued that the pledge would vitiate Sogolani’s rights to dignity, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and equal protection of the law – rights that are all enshrined in the Constitution.
The human rights lawyer added that the pledge is formulated “in the manner of an oath, a prayer and seems, in the very least, a religious observance”.
In his founding affidavit filed at the court, Sogolani argued that the national pledge is offensive to his religious convictions and thus in violation of Sections 51, 56 (1), (3), 60 (1), (2), (3) and 61 (1) (a) of the Constitution.