HARARE – Government is yet to start producing translated versions of the Constitution in the 16 national official languages, five years after the enactment of the law.
Speaking in Senate on Thursday, Beitbridge Senator Tambudzani Mohadi queried why the so-called “minority” languages had not yet been given full effect.
She said it was saddening that languages which were voted for and approved in a referendum were still playing second fiddle to English, Ndebele and Shona.
These languages include Sotho, Venda, Tonga, Nambya, Chibarwe, Koisan, Ndau, Shangani, Sign Language, Tswana, Chewa and Kalanga.
“My question is directed to the minister of Justice…. Taking into consideration that in 2013 in our national Constitution, they were 16 languages which were meant to be official and they are supposed to be interpreted here in Parliament but they have not been and we only have three languages; Shona, Ndebele and English.
When will the other languages be put into use?” she queried.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said there was need to mobilise resources for distribution of the translated versions to the general populace.
He agreed that the translation and production of the 16 versions of the Constitution is government’s constitutional mandate although he maintained that limited funds remained a hurdle in the production of the supreme legislative document into all languages.
“I want to thank …. Mohadi for the question which is very important and she is very correct to say that we have 16 languages which we are supposed to translate.
“Indeed, the process to translate our Constitution into all our languages started sometime ago,” Ziyambi said.
“We constituted a committee that included linguistic experts and some legal experts in the form of retired judges to ensure that we capture the essence of the Constitution when we translate it to the vernacular languages.
“We started with, like she rightly said, Shona and Ndebele.
“We also had Chewa and Tonga but we have since finished the exercise of translating the Constitution into all the 16 languages.
“Funds permitting, we will be producing the Constitution in all the languages. I thank you.”
The ministry has previously maintained that the translation and production of the Constitution into various officially recognised languages deepens Zimbabweans’ resolve to consolidate the social and cultural gains.