The Government of Zimbabwe has poured cold water in prospects of fully implementing the Constitutional provisions on linguistic rights (Section 6) as well as detects of international provisions such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.
This comes out as the Deputy Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs (Hon. Ziyambi) was responding on behalf of the Minister of Health and Child Care in Parliament on the 28th of August 2019. The question was asked by Hon. G. Dube who had asked the Minister of Health and Child Care “to inform the House what Government policy is regarding the deployment of nurses who are not conversant with local languages, particularly in the Matabeleland North Province”.
In his response Hon Ziyambi ruled out any immediate possibility of deploying nurses who speak in local languages arguing that “there is a procedure which is followed on deployment of nurses. The student nurses upon completion of training are required to complete deployment forms. The student nurse is supposed to indicate one urban health institution and two rural provinces where he or she wishes to work.
The Ministry will in the future take into consideration the issue of language before deployment. However, there is no guarantee that we can completely second candidates who are fluent in the local language.”
Section 6(3)(b) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe detects that “the State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must take into account the language preferences of people affected by the governmental measures or communications”. However, the response of Minister Ziyambi shows that the State is taking into account the deployment preference of the student nurse above the community being served.
As MIHR we wish to remind the government that is duty bound by Section 6(3); Section 44; and Section 194(1) to respect the rights of the people. The deployment of nurses who speak the local language will also be a step towards the realization of the right to health as enunciated in Section 76(4) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Furthermore, Article 2(2) of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities stipulates that “Persons belonging to minorities have the right to participate effectively in cultural, religious, social, economic and public life.” Realizing that Matabeleland North province is home to over 6 ethnic and religious minorities – the failure by the state to deploy nurses who speak the different local languages is a denial of the minorities to participate effective in social and public life.