ZEGU student who can’t speak in tongues gets a lifeline

Court Reporter

A student of the Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University (ZEGU) who was disqualified from contesting in the student executive council elections because she cannot speak in tongues yesterday got relieved after the High Court allowed her to participate in the elections.

The decision to bar Modester Zinhanga (21) from exercising her constitutional rights to participate in the elections peeved mostly the female students at the institute of higher learning who viewed the move as discriminatory and contradicts core values of the institution as equality.

Dissatisfied with the decision, Zinhanga rushed to High Court suing the university, registrar Mr Innocent Chinyemba and Dean of Students Mr Zachariah Zenguze, who were listed as respondents in the suit seeking an interdict for the elections, accusing ZEGU of illegally barring her from taking part in the elections.

She argued that she was disqualified for not being a member of the ZAOGA congregation, which runs the university. But Justice Webster Chinamora granted the application by Zinhanga ruling that the decision to disqualify Zinhanga was unfair discrimination and a direct violation of section 56 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

“All students who qualify as registered and enrolled with the first respondent (ZEGU) with at least a semester of study at the first respondent have an equal opportunity and equal benefit of the law which must be promoted and protected and must be afforded the equal opportunity to run for elections in the student body,” he said.

“That the decision of respondents should be confined to what the first respondent’s University Charter permits as fair discrimination under the supreme and ultimate guidance of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”

The judge also ruled that the whole section 9 of the students’ handbook 2021 edition was unconstitutional.

In her founding affidavit, Zinhanga who was being represented said the disqualification was a breach of her rights and the dismissal could not stand the constitutionality test.

She implored the court to afford her an equal chance and benefit of the law as is set out under Section 56 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

Zinhanga also argued that the decision taken by the third respondent was contrary to the purpose of the university, which as a doyen of intellectual excellence is to prepare young adults for all career paths. The Consorted Young-People Front (CYPF) national secretary general Changamire Mukove welcomed the judgment, which denounced the intention of ZEGU to apply section 86 of the Constitution, because stipulations or regulations of the university do not have the status of a law of general application.

CYPF is a social convergence of young persons with a drive to advance and push for youth participation in decision-making at all levels.

“We are fully aware of our rights, in particular fundamental rights of students. Our appreciation of these rights gives us the confidence to always be ready to vindicate them,” said Makove.

“We feel that this is just the beginning, if need be, we will always vindicate our rights before Courts in Zimbabwe and the region because we believe that Courts have a duty to protect our interests as long same are genuine and whenever they are violated. We cannot stand to watch anyone being victimised.

“Over and above the court has set a tone for us, it has created an ambiance that we forever will be indebted to. It has given us a solid ground for entrenching academic freedom at length.”

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