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Ask Takudzwa 29 – Freedom of Expression’s Matrioshka: Member State to International States of Rights

2022-05-12

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Canadian Atheist

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/05/13

Takudzwa Mazwienduna is the informal leader of Zimbabwean Secular Alliance and a member of the Humanist Society of Zimbabwe. This educational series will explore secularism in Zimbabwe from an organizational perspectiveand more.

Here we talk about the freedom of expression within the context of Zimbabwe and its important to humanists there.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Article 1 and 2 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013 make the important point of the democratic nature of the society and the supremacy of Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013 as the law of the land, people, and institutions of Zimbabwe. Therefore, all considerations of the freedom to express oneself remain grounded in the statements of Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013. Article 61(1) of Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013 functions in a context of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the media. I find the expressed emphasis on the media an important note to this conversation on freedom of expression within a, in principle, humanist document or constitution. What seems like the overarching rationale for the inclusion of the media and expression rather than expression alone with media implied in Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013?

Takudzwa Mazwienduna: The Zimbabwean independent media had carried out a lengthy campaign leading up to the 2013 constitution making process. The previous constitution had unconstitutional amendments limiting the media and making it so that only propaganda from state run newspapers was tolerated. A lot of independent journalists were arrested under the repressive legislation that included AIPPA which I talked about in the last interview. So the emphasis on media was a win pushed for by the opposition and activists calling for the journalists who were arrested to be released.

Jacobsen: Article 61(1)(a) states, “Freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information.” Where does this become particularly consequential for individual humanists who have been questioning and require the ability to research and substantiate questions about the household religion?

Mazwienduna: That section was also in relation to previous repressive legislation like AIPPA, mostly targeted to journalists rather than humanists. Prior to the 2013 constitution, there hadn’t been really any laws that protected church privilege or infringed on secular rights. Since independence, Zimbabwe was a legal heaven for religious minorities.

Just not a social heaven for them, but a legal heaven nonetheless.

Jacobsen: Article 61(1)(b) states, “Freedom of artistic expression and scientific research and creativity.” To the humanistic sensibility or philosophy, or more fundamentally the defining characteristic of human nature as in the instinct to creatively construct or to create, artistic expression and empirical research seem like different manifestations of truth through metaphor and truth through fact mediated through the evolved organism called a human being. A peculiar creature with certain needs and freedoms. How is this particular article important to creating a more rounded human being through a fulfillment of instinctual requirements for the flourishing of human beings? How does this further make this document humanist in its orientation?

Mazwienduna: Again, the context was mostly political and referred to how artists had been arrested for criticizing or even subtly insulting the regime. The likes of Thomas Mapfumo; a Zimbabwean Jazz legend had been in exile in the United Kingdom for decades all because a song of his criticized the then president Robert Mugabe. Oliver Mtukudzi, another Afro Jazz legend had his fare share of trouble for singing a song suggestive of Mugabe’s old age. So this came after years of campaigns against this tyranny. To the Zimbabwean government, politics is more important than religion and this was surprising yet relieving progress with regards to freedom of expression and speech where politics were concerned.

Jacobsen: Article 61(1)(c) stipulates academic freedom as a necessity within the freedom of expression article. What have been the most controversial parts of science and academic life for Zimbabweans in its history leading to the necessity for this freedom in spite of the offensive, factually incorrect, racist and xenophobic, or otherwise, research? How does freedom to research make an academic culture better rather than not, and a democratic society more democratic than not?

Mazwienduna: This gave freedom for university students to criticize the government in their academic theses or dissertations, something that was not allowed before. Robert Mugabe was the chancellor of all state university and I particularly remember when he caped us during the 2016 graduation ceremony, capping some students who had written theses criticizing him. This was unheard of before the 2013 constitution, and it was a big win for progress.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Takudzwa.

Mazwienduna: It’s always a pleasure Scott.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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