CSOs ponder on how best to raise constitutional awareness

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

The 2013 constitution was   voted overwhelmingly by   citizens although, it seems very few   are fully aware of the provisions in the new constitution that   safeguards and promotes their fundamental rights.

It is against this background, that the International  Republican Institute  in conjunction with Economic  Justice for Women Project(EJWP) and  Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET)  recently conducted a two-day training  workshop which was attended by delegates from various civic society organisations   on ‘constitutional awareness, civic education and citizen participation’.

According to VISET   director Samuel Wadzayi   there was the need for civic organisations members to device ways to ensure that citizens can   easily grasp their rights enshrined in the constitution and their responsibilities.

“As members of the civic society we need to come up with creative ways of explaining the fundamental   rights in the constitution   and citizens’ responsibilities in the quest for such rights,” he implored.

Speaking on some interventions citizens can utilise to seek recourse where violations of rights could have happened, Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association (CAMERA) director Marvellous Khumalo   challenged civic society organisations to re-look on how petitions can be made effective.

“I think as civic organisations we have to find ways of making petitions effective  since most of the time the frenzy of the request die down after the stamping of the petition at the parliament and there are no follow ups to  the petition,” pointed out the former MDC Alliance legislator for St Mary’s.

The call was also echoed by Youth Forum director Ashton Bumhira who encouraged   the civic society to embrace technology when petitioning as most citizens are now online.

“In this digital era it is also crucial to raise awareness of petitions through social media as most people actively use it,” cited Bumhira.

But most delegates concurred that there are many puzzles in the work of civic society to promote civic participation.

Of particular mention was how to   convince   support organisations to streamline activities so that they become relevant to communities where civic organisations   will be operating.

“We need to explore how best can we be able to stand our ground so that civic education programmes that we embark on are not detached from the communities that they are meant to serve because most of the time we get swayed by the demands by the support organisation,” said Economic Justice for Women Project director Margaret Mutsamvi.

Another delegate   Treasure Basopo   of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung who was part of the workshop hailed the training as refreshing on the importance of constitutionalism.

“The training had content which was simplified and spoke on the importance of constitutionalism to   help on the full functionality of the state,” revealed Basopo.

Civic education can be easily misconstrued as a regime change agenda hence most civic organisations or citizens   then shy away from it. Recently, Lovemore Matuke who is the deputy minister of public service, labour and social welfare was quoted in a local paper saying that government has to put all NGOs under the microscope to ensure that none dabbles in politics.