In December 2014, March 2017 and April 2019 the nation of Zimbabwe witnessed the landmark rulings on the outlawing of corporal punishment. High Court judges, Justice E. Muremba and Justice D. Mangota in 2014 and 2017 ruled over the cases of S v Chokuramba and Pfungwa and Anor v Belvedere Primary School respectively and passed down judgment against corporal punishment. The Judges ruled that corporal punishment in homes and in schools against children was in violation of the rights of children. They referred to the country’s constitution, in particular sections 51 which covers the rights to human dignity, 53 on the freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and 81 on the rights of children.
Recently, with effect from the 3rd of April 2019, the Constitutional Court judges led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba declared that section 353 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence act was in conflict with section 53 of the constitution. As such, no male juvenile will receive corporal punishment for any offence they may be convicted of whatsoever.
Though the judgement has been commended and celebrated at a more wider level in terms of the constitution being upheld in particular on the rights of the children, some have expressed concerns on what has been deemed ‘excessive liberties’ of children. Social media, which has a field of contestation of philosophies, beliefs and ideas, was as usual flooding with varying opinions. To some, the ruling removes conflict in the country’s laws and protects minors from injury resulting from excessive force exerted on their bodies during the process of canning They agreed and argued it was the same constitution the majority voted in favour of in 2013. The basis of their argument was that the punishing of children had led to the entry of weapons into homes and schools. Board dusters, mulberry tree branches, strips of rubber door mats and sjamboks had become some of the commonly used tools of canning children thereby exposing the children to excessive bodily harm. Various videos had in the past made the usual trending rounds on social media depicting pre school, primary and high school teachers canning the tears out of children for offences as minor as spilling water.
It was those in disagreement with the Con Court ruling on corporal punishment that perhaps had the most to say. The ruling was viewed as the end of discipline and respect, the breeding of a generation of thieves and multi bed hopping citizens. There were those fundamentalists who criticized those High Court Applicants and their lawyers who sought the abolishment of corporal punishment and bemoaned that their own personal problems of the canning of their children had now been made everyone’s problem without community consultation. Extreme fundamentalists deemed the ruling as fighting God and the breach of religion and beliefs. The basis of their argument was from the Holy Bible, the book of Proverbs chapter 13 verse 24 which says “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Gideons).
Despite the heated arguments on some platforms, some took the topic on social media as the site of conviviality by claiming that children now were the real born frees and those above 21 were war veterans of the struggle of canning at home and at school. Nevertheless, the ruling may divide citizens on a matter of opinion but they remain united in the hope that there will not be an increase in juvenile delinquency.