WASHINGTON DC— A survey released Monday by the International Republican Institute reveals that a majority of Zimbabweans are committed to participating in community discussions and decision-making forums, but are struggling to participate in these forums.
Speaking at a panel discussion on Local Governance and Constitutionalism in Zimbabwe at the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Washington DC, Douglas Coltart, Zimbabwean Human rights lawyer and Uhuru fellow with the IRI, Bryan Sims, IRI program officer, and Carloine Trigg, director of Target Research, which conducted the poll, unpacked the findings of their year-long survey.
The survey revealed that apart from struggling to participate in decision-making and community discussions, the majority of respondents said they do not understand the content or how Zimbabwe’s new constitution applies to their lives.
Coltart pointed out that although Zimbabweans want to participate in decision-making discussions, only 63 percent know how to participate in community forums.
He added somewhat surprisingly, though encouraging, that Zimbabweans still view voting in the country as a way to participate in decision-making.
Unpacking people’s awareness on the new constitution, which was adopted in 2013 after a national referendum, Sims revealed that although 70 percent of respondents were aware of the new constitution, only 28 percent or one fifth of the respondents had been educated on the values and contents of the constitution.
He said indications are that the constitution was highly discussed at places of work, and Zimbabweans who had never had a job were less aware of the provisions of the country’s supreme law.
Sims said about 11 percent of the respondents cited civil society organizations as a source of creating awareness about the constitution although they played a major role in the crafting and adoption of the constitution.
Sharon Wekwete, a Zimbabwean and Hubert Humphrey Fellowship fellow, said the information presented during the panel can help stakeholders form a more informed position on governance and constitutionalism.
She said it would be important that this information can be sent back these particular stakeholders.
Wewkete pointed out that some of the findings, including those that touched on gender, showed progressive changes in the way Zimbabweans view governance and gender issues.
Coltart further noted the respondents’ reaction to a question on the impact of the constitution in people’s lives and challenges facing its full implementation in the country.
The research survey was designed by IRI in cooperation with a local Zimbabwean marketing and research firm, Target Research, which conducted face-to-face interviews from December 20, 2014 to January 23, 2015.
Respondents were a random, nationally representative sample of 1,215 Zimbabweans, aged 18 years and older. The margin of error for the entire study is plus or minus 2.9 percent. This survey is the first to attempt to measure constitutionalism in Zimbabwe.