The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), Parliamentary Liaison Office in conjunction with The National Constitution Translation Committee (NCTC), and supported by the government have translated the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act 2013 into four local languages. The constitution was translated into Shona, Kalanga, Ndebele and Tonga.
The Parliamentary Liaison Coordinator, Fr. Edward Ndete said the reason of the translation is constitutional. According to Section 6 (3) of the Zimbabwe Constitution, the State and all institutions and agencies of government, at every level, must ensure that all officially recognized languages are treated equitably; and take into account the language preferences of people affected by governmental measures or communications. The constitution further states that the State must promote and advance the use of all languages used in Zimbabwe, including sign language and must create conditions for the development of those languages.
It is in this regard that the Catholic Church through its Parliamentary Liaison Office has taken a lead in making sure that the Constitution reaches people by translating it into various languages that are accessible to the public. The majority of the population feels left out by the English version of the Constitution which is not the daily language of many people.
According to Fr. Ndete, the constitution should be translated, taught in schools, and people and organizations are encouraged to disseminate information about it to the rest of society.
Fr. Ndete quoted Section 7(a) of the same constitution which says; “The State must promote public awareness of this Constitution by translating it into all officially recognized languages and disseminating it as widely as possible; (b) requiring the Constitution to be taught in schools and as part of the curricula for the training of members of the security services, the civil service and members and employees of public institutions; and (c) encouraging all persons and organizations, including civil organizations, to disseminate awareness and knowledge of this constitution through out society.”
The translation of the constitution into other local languages was underway, Fr. Ndete said, adding that the process was being led by the National Constitution Translation Committee.
“Translations are very expensive. The Church from its meager resources managed to translate the constitution into four languages. This is due to the limitation of funds and not out of choice. However, translation work for the remaining languages is going on,” he said.
Fr. Ndete stated that the selection of the first four languages was determined through research conducted by the University of Zimbabwe on the widely-spoken languages in the country.
He said: “We wanted to know the widely spoken languages in the country, and the University of Zimbabwe through its research gave us Shona, Ndebele, Tonga and Kalanga as the major languages used by many people.”