Is Chinamasa advising Mugabe wisely?

HARARE - Since the weekend Sadc summit in Maputo, Mozambique, where the government was urged to seek a delay in the harmonised elections, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has been in the news since he was tasked by the regional bloc with that assignment.

Chinamasa on Tuesday filed an appeal against the Constitutional Court ruling ordering elections to be held on July 31.

In papers before the court, Chinamasa emphasised that President Robert Mugabe had no problem with the date and had already complied with the order but was seeking the delay following the intervention of regional leaders.

On June 13, Mugabe declared that elections would be held on July 31, in line with the court order following an application by Harare political activist Jealousy Mawarire.

Mugabe’s proclamation however, sparked furious responses from the MDC parties which took the dispute to the Sadc meeting.

And Zimbabweans have been asking; Is Chinamasa giving Mugabe the best advice concerning this contentious issue of elections day?

While some commentators have said the Justice Minister is doing well interpreting the law to Mugabe and government, there are others who think he is deliberately misleading the liberation leader.

When Zanu PF and MDCs formed a national unity government in 2009, Chinamasa was retained as minister of Justice.

A leading member of the ruling Zanu PF party, Chinamasa has been deputy Agriculture minister, and then Attorney General of Zimbabwe. He has also held the role of Leader of the Zimbabwean Parliament.

Along with Goche, Chinamasa was one of the negotiators sent by Zanu PF to the talks between political parties that began in Pretoria in 2008, following Mugabe’s disputed re-election.

Since his appointment as minister of Justice, many Zimbabwean judges have resigned, complaining of political pressure.

A tactical politician, in 2004, Chinamasa, who has also been the Secretary for Legal Affairs of Zanu PF, was removed from the party’s Politburo.

 A year later, he was ejected from his post as Justice minister but six months later he was returned to the post.

He is among a host of individuals not allowed to travel to the United States because the US government feels he has worked to undermine democracy in Zimbabwe.

Within Zanu PF, Chinamasa has been seen as an ally of Emmerson Mnangagwa since 2004, having been fingered in the “infamous” Tsholotsho grand meeting meant to topple Mugabe.

Still there are many who continue to ask: Is Chinamasa giving Mugabe the legal advice to Mugabe?

Playwright Leonard Matsa said Chinamasa is the natural, dependable and perfect legal advisor for Mugabe.

“It should be noted that Chinamasa’s role here is not one of giving legal advice for direction, but interpreting the law so as to give legal context or force to the party’s already defined direction.

“Chinamasa is just giving the legal options available; the final decision is not his.

“Of course being the legal face of the party he gets the bashing for any wobbling and sadly not credited in case of success,” said Matsa.

Pan African activist and commentator Thomas Deve said many people have always wondered how Mugabe treats advice that comes from his people.

“The election dates saga shows that Mugabe is advised by a team headed by people who are ready to go on a scorched earth policy and ready to go into battle if anything stands in their way.

“The President seems to thrive around such controversial people and positions.

“So it is clear that Chinamasa has to advise him with the knowledge that many people are watching him closely as he has been singled out when the nation is at crossroads,” said Deve.

Media practitioner Rashweat Mukundu said Chinamasa is at the back and call of the hawks in Zanu PF and his messing up of this Sadc request for a postponement of elections, though a Constitutional Court application is an example of that.

“I guess this is also another indication that Mugabe is no longer in control or is attempting to run circles around the MDC parties. Either way chances of a free and fair election are diminishing by the day,” said Mukundu.

Social commentator and Harare Trust Resident director Precious Shumba said it is difficult to tell what role Mugabe has played in the deliberations on election dates within Zanu PF, neither is it clear what Chinamasa has done behind the scenes, save for what is in the public domain.

“Zanu PF’s internal dynamics are more complex than is known to the public, and therefore it is extremely difficult to get an understanding of the players who are influencing electoral decisions,” said Shumba.
Political activist Tabani Moyo said of Chinamasa’s advice to Mugabe on elections.

“Well, he is not the best to do the job of cause. If I may ask you when did you last hear of Chinamasa winning an election? He might have the fine legal minds but the game of politics is his weaker terrain.

“Listen to his comments that ‘there is no harm in soldiers mixing their barrack business with civilian activities.’ With all due respect, the Honourable member must focus on battling it out with Basel Nyabadza in primary elections.”

Moyo said he has always stated that elections would be held between August and September. “I don’t know what makes it difficult for Mugabe’s advisers to understand.”

He said it is critical to note that leaders get the advisers they deserve. “In earnest the leader is only as good as his advisers are.

“If you use that notion, then you can realise that it is a collapse of the party in totality.

“Advice is not given in that party; remember an entire cabinet that went all the way to Chinhoyi to witness diesel oozing from a rock?”

And Chinamasa might be giving wrong advice to Mugabe. “It is not only Chinamasa who wants the President of the republic to rest or go as you witnessed from Wikileaks capable burst. They want the man to rest. This election might be the window of opportunity for them to reiterate that message.”

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