A new study conducted in Chitungwiza, a town located approximately 30 kilometres south of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, revealed that 55 per cent of citizens in that locality have a fair knowledge of the constitution of Zimbabwe.
However, this knowledge does not directly translate to an understanding of their socio-economic and cultural rights, as enshrined in Chapter 4 of the constitution.
In May 2013, Zimbabwe adopted a new constitution that includes respect and protection of fundamental civil liberties as well as economic, social and cultural rights.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) in partnership with Chitungwiza Residents Trust (CHITREST) conducted the research in November 2015 to find out how much residents actually know about the human rights guaranteed them in the constitution.
The study is titled “Access to Socioeconomic Rights, Knowledge and Perceptions of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission: the Case of Chitungwiza”. It also aimed to identify basic challenges facing the enjoyment of socio-economic rights and estimate residents’ familiarity with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. The overall goal of the study was to inform evidence-based policy programming in Chitungwiza.
Chitungiwza, like many other areas in Zimbabwe, faces a host of problems including lack of basic services, resources and facilities. The town has high rates of unemployment, homelessness and poverty.
While the Chitungwiza residents were well aware of the civil and political rights set out in the constitution, none of them referred to economic, social and cultural rights.
According to the study, if citizens are informed and empowered to make better decisions they will be much more likely to unite behind a goal and demand their rights be fulfilled.
“Human rights knowledge should form the primary means of people’s self defence. People can only exercise and claim their rights as well as defend the rights of others if they have sufficient knowledge of these human rights, their types and means for their protection,” is one of the study’s conclusions.
The study also found that gaps in knowledge of constitutional rights need to be filled in order to create effective and informed engagement and resources in cases of rights violations. In the end, educating people about their human rights is just as important as passing laws that protect these rights.
The Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands (RNE) in partnership with Hivos Southern Africa provided financial and technical support for the study under the Human Rights Fund. The goal of the Fund is to improve the protection and promotion of human rights in Zimbabwe in a sustainable way through support to civil society organisations.