The Constitution is the highest law of the land. Since 2013 Zimbabwe has a new Constitution which celebrates the vibrancy of Zimbabwean Cultures and Traditions. It recognises that Zimbabwe is a diverse nation and has sections which directly and indirectly address issues related to the arts and culture.
The whole Section 6 of the Constitution is dedicated to languages. Unlike the old Constitution which only recognised English as the official language, the new Constitution gives specification on the 16 languages to be recognised as “official languages” including sign language. There are further provisions in 6(2) allowing the addition of other languages as official through an Act of Parliament. All official languages are equal 6(3) (a): This means that previously disadvantaged local languages will be recognised. The recognition of these languages in the constitution could be starting point towards the formulation of a comprehensive language policy for the country.
Article 2(12) of the Constitution recognises the importance of Pan-African cultural integration and cooperation alongside economic and political integration.
The Constitution also encourages the promotion and preservation of heritage, cultural values and practices which enhance the dignity, well-being and equality of Zimbabweans.
Article 4 (61) (1) (b) Freedom of artistic expressions is hereby recognised as one of the fundamental rights in the Constitution and this is positive. Artists have been arrested and tortured for controversial creative productions such as visual art exhibitions, music and theatre.
The whole Chapter 15 of the Constitution recognises the importance of traditional leadership in our modern society. It clearly outlines their duties which are generally limited to cultural, customary and traditional matters. The constitution also makes it clear that the chiefs and traditional leaders should be appointed following the culture, customs, practices, tradition of the concerned communities.
There are also some indirect provisions within the constitution that impact on culture for instance:
Article 2(34) provides that the State must ensure that all international conventions, treaties and agreements to which Zimbabwe is a party are incorporated into domestic law. Zimbabwe is a signatory to several international conventions including the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. This provision ensures the incorporation of such conventions into law so that their provisions are implemented for the benefit of the public.
The only major concern around all these provisions is whether or not they will be implemented given the country’s long standing struggle in effectively implementing policy.