Source: Govt defends Unity Day holiday | The Herald May 24, 2016
Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
GOVERNMENT has urged the Constitutional Court to dismiss the case in which Chitungwiza legislator Mr Alexio Musundire and civic activists Mr Tinomudaishe Chinyoka and Ms Coliwe Mufaki are challenging the constitutionality of declaring December 22 a national holiday.
The application, according to Government lawyers, was a waste of the court’s time and the court must refuse to entertain it.
The trio, in the constitutional challenge, argued that December 22 was not a national holiday, but a commemoration of a unity between two political parties — Zanu and PF Zapu.
The day was set aside to celebrate the signing of the 1987 Unity Accord between President Mugabe’s Zanu and the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo’s PF Zapu.
President Mugabe was cited as the first respondent, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo was listed as second respondent.
The Home Affairs Minister is the one responsible for the administration of the public holidays and Prohibition of Business Act.
It was the trio’s argument that compelling everyone to celebrate the day as a public holiday was unconstitutional.
In a notice of opposition filed at the Constitutional Court recently, permanent secretary for Home Affairs Mr Melusi Matshiya said no one was forced to attend the unity day celebrations in Zimbabwe and no rights have been violated.
“Applicants have not alleged that they were ever forced to attend the celebration or commemoration held on Unity Day, and as such, there is no basis for alleging that their rights to freedom of assembly and association have been violated.
“There are several holidays that are celebrated which do not necessarily apply to each and every member of a particular population such as Easter and Christmas to name a few.
“Public Holidays can never universally apply to all people hence no one is forced to participate in the commemorations, pertaining to any public holiday.
“Wherefore respondents pray that the application be dismissed with costs,” Government argued.
Government said the fact that some people do not like the date does not make declaration of the holiday unconstitutional.
“There is nothing unconstitutional about the declaration of the 22nd of December as National Unity Day.
“It would be absurd to find it unconstitutional simply on the basis that it is either contrary to applicants’ opinions or that applicants do not want the day in question to be a public holiday for reasons personal to them,” it is argued.
The application, Government argued, does not establish any constitutional violations, hence it must be dismissed.
President Mugabe was wrongly cited by name in the application, when at law he should be cited in his official capacity.
The parties are yet to file heads of argument before the matter is set down for hearing.