Zimbabwe’s higher education minister Jonathan Moyo has waded into the controversy over a national pledge for children, which will be introduced in many schools at the start of a new term on Tuesday.
Some parents and churches are up in arms over the pledge, which children will be made to recite every day after singing Zimbabwe’s national anthem.
In it, children pledge their allegiance to God and the national flag and pay their respects to “brave fathers and mothers who lost their lives in the Chimurenga [Zimbabwe’s 1970s war for independence].”
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) last week filed legal papers to try to have schools stopped from forcing children to recite the pledge. The case is still before the courts.
Church groups including the Brethren In Christ Church and the Christian Alliance have said they will instruct children of their members not to recite the pledge.
In a series of tweets on Monday, Moyo, a former information minister, quoted a section of Zimbabwe’s new constitution that says “no person may be compelled to take an oath that is contrary to their religion or their belief.”
“Court will decide whether the pledge violates [Section] 60 (2),” Moyo said, adding: “I think it would have been better if a school pledge had been included in the constitution as are other oaths.”
President Robert Mugabe’s government appears to have underestimated the strength of opposition to the pledge. Some analysts suggest this is more about opposing the ruling party itself, which has been in power here since 1980.
Sylvia Utete-Masango, the permanent secretary in the education ministry, told the Chronicle newspaper on Monday: “The words in the pledge talk about hard work, commitment and dignity. I don’t know if there are parents who don’t want honest and hard-working children.”
Zimbabwe’s national flag is a focal point for many at the moment after a local pastor, Evan Mawarire, recorded his own conflicted sentiments about the national symbol.
His #ThisFlag movement has received a huge response from Zimbabweans. In recent posts to Facebook, Mawarire is encouraging citizens to “take this flag with you everywhere” between May 1-7.