In my previous installment I indicated concern, regarding the seemingly deliberate violation of the constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe. This was viewed as setting a dangerous precedent for our future generations.
Of major concern was that this was practiced in face of Judiciary establishment, as provided for in our constitution. Our failures generally reflect judiciary ineptitude, as bestowed with the responsibility to interpret laws. See [For a problem to be a problem, it has to contain a lie].
On public television we recently witnessed what appeared to be a short-cut in the administration of taking oaths. This was fulfilling the process of swearing in of new ministers, according to Section 104 (6) of our constitution. It seems the crafting of this section carries an oversight—in terms of clarifying the significance of taking oaths before the President?
An important document such as our constitution ought to have clarified the significance of taking oaths, rather than leaving it to assumption. Swearing in public implies that the person fully appreciates the significance of promising to do what is uttered in public oath.
The incumbent pronounces words in such ways as to be heard by those witnessing—declaring what is promised in public. Therefore, falsely taking oaths should be considered a serious violation of the Law of the Land. Such violation justifies the impeachment, or the removal of an executive President from office.
However, the ministers who uttered their oaths on that day, appeared as merely reading the words meant to affirm the significance of taking oath? How does that behaviour justify the conviction, through inaudible words, as uttered in unison?
Did those new ministers say words that came from their hearts, or words that were assumed to come from their hearts? The assumption and reality, simply, do not portray the same meaning. Of course, the principle of taking oaths involves God, as those ministers held what looked like Bibles.
But how could we be sure that those newly appointed ministers were sincere in what they were doing? Do the public even know about their religious convictions towards God? This is like a spouse who blindly falls into an abusive marital relationship, because the partner pretended to be good.
The starting point ought to be on the promissory affirmation as justified by taking oath. The person may be assumed as holding acceptable credentials for the office. But how can we know exactly what goes on in that person’s mind—except through publicly uttered affirmation on oath-taking?
The oath-taking assumes that the ultimate authority is God. If a person gives oath, when knowing that he/she would be lying—that is a matter between that person and God. The casual process of taking oaths by people who may not believe in God, is not only blasphemous, but also a violation of the constitution.
Firstly, our Constitution ought to answer the question on whether the person taking oath believes in God or not. I find it ironic that an atheist can ever find value in taking oaths, unless the intention is to mislead. If our constitution carries a provision for atheists to hold public offices, then why do we have to generalize the process of taking oaths?
However, if a person first affirms to believe in God—though falsely—no-one can verify the person’s conviction. This projects the limitations of humanity. The President would not be blamed for putting the wrong person in authority. Those witnessing the swearing, would also not be to blame.
Ordinary people can only take for granted, what the person affirms publicly, when giving oath. This, therefore, shows how significant, the value of taking oath is supposed to be. It is between taking the name of the Lord in vain, and seriously committing oneself in knowing who God is. No other fallible human being is qualified to know what would be the reality.
However, what was witnessed on Monday, 4th December, 2017, did not indicate serious commitment, according to the oaths taken? Those ministers may have, as well, taken those oaths according to the avowed affirmations. But, in my view, the affirmations given in unison cannot qualify the significance of taking oath. Let alone the fact that the religious background of those ministers would have not even been verified, except following the routine, as a custom.
The delivery or non-delivery by those ministers in government, ought to be determined by the value of the oaths taken before the President. The same applies with the President himself, before the Chief Justice. But, at least the President gave his own oath with clarity. The question of whether what he said, truly came from his heart, or not, is another thing. But the President’s oath was clearly articulated in the presence of witnesses.
Due to the utterances pronounced at the swearing in of the President, one assumes that he will indeed carry out what he promised to do. The opposite may be true, but it would be beyond any fallible human being to know about that. On face value, the president promised to do his best.
There is no clarity in utterances pronounced by those bunch of ministers giving oaths in unison. Did they all commit themselves to affirming to what is required of their respective ministries? If nothing was audible in what they uttered, they could as well have gone ahead to do the work, without giving oaths.
An exception is on those who gave their oaths individually. Although this does not necessarily imply that those individually giving oaths, were more authentic than those giving theirs in unison. This article seeks to simply project the significance of taking an oath, in that it should not be taken as a routine.
We wish the newly established cabinet ministries the best of luck. But, the starting point ought to have been the commitment displayed in taking oaths. Which, unfortunately, appears as having been followed through as routine, rather than significance. My view is that it is either we are a God-fearing nation, or not.
There should not be any room of ‘maybe’s; or suppositions, when committing ourselves into what is said to be new, as compared with the old. The value found in old practices, includes learning to avoid repeating the same mistakes all over again. We are where we are, because of the old mistakes.
On paper, anyone can promise to do anything that can convince the worst of sceptics. If we were to replay the 1980 inauguration speech by our former President, one would have assumed Zimbabwe having gotten into the Promised Land. The speech was good, if not better than the one recently given by President Mnangagwa, on his inauguration day.
The outcome of former President Mugabe’s tenure lies in the significance of what was given on oath. Had that oath been adopted in its value, Zimbabwe would not have gotten into the dilapidated state that it is currently found to be in.
There are no good things found in human beings. By giving an oath, one testifies to the best of intentions and submitting to God Almighty to take control. This is why oaths, normally end with the beautifully crafted words: “So help me God.”
The declarations uttered in unison, by those ministers, portray a people driven by routine, more than by substance. Under the circumstances, how can one refute the sceptics—except allowing the maybe’s and assumptions to swim in one’s head? The Book of Proverbs is replete with verses like: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 15:33).
The ministers who gave oaths in unison may indeed fear the Lord. But there is also room of possibility that some of them might not fear the Lord. This is when considering the element that their swearing was conducted as a matter of routine, rather than substance.
Our Constitution is considered as people-driven. While there may still be flaws in it, the same constitution has potential to bring the best, in terms of political governance. Any failure, projects inability to apply, or interpret the contents—prime of which is the significance of taking oath by those public officers.
The reason why taking an oath should be regarded as most serious, is in line with what is said in the Book of Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”(Proverbs 15:33). Holding a public office requires utmost trust and wisdom, by the one concerned. But, even with the best of intentions, wisdom cannot be attainable without connection with one’s Creator.
It is, therefore, a serious violation of the constitution, when assuming to be God-fearing, yet the opposite being true. This reality can be verified and ascertained at the point of taking oath. Oath-taking should portray what comes from the individual, more than what comes from tradition or custom.
The guiding factor, when giving oaths, should portray the significance rather than routine. The principle of taking oaths should not be routine, based on assumption, but on substance, so that those giving oaths are clear of what they would be doing, as expected of them.
When things are done in unison, a dubious person can just move lips without saying anything. Or the person could say anything, rather than what would be recorded on paper? In other words, the person taking oath should be clearly convicted of the significance of taking oath, before holding that Bible.
Let us not just assume that we are a God-fearing nation, when allowing people who may not be God-fearing to lead us. If truly a God-fearing nation, let us ensure that the Constitution is not deliberately violated. More so, when allowing the improper oath-taking, prior to assuming responsibility on any public office.
Technically, the constitution can be assumed as not having been violated, depending on the interpretation by our Law Officers. But the same Law Officers may have themselves also improperly taken their own oaths, in carrying out their responsibilities. They would have failed to check the significance of oath-taking. Possibly, this is what under-lines our problems in this country?
But nothing takes away the fact that our Constitution bears the provision of oath-taking, before assuming ministerial responsibilities in government. If done properly, the question of trust, could be addressed, just by simply appreciating the significance of oath-taking. Our country needs people of integrity—not those who pretend to be what they would be not.
As attributed to Einstein; another definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results. One cannot declare, starting afresh, when still practicing the same idiocy of the past. Starting afresh means doing everything differently, including the administration of giving oaths.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99