Is immorality a legal wrong?

HARARE - Immorality is socially considered unacceptable, but questions have been raised if this translates to a legal wrong.

Several people have been brought before the courts for different crimes.

While their fate is subject to the court’s determination, the “court of public opinion” always has its own conclusions based on general social principles and moral grounds.

Law is generally defined as a system of rules enforced by a set of institutions for civil, political, social and economic obedience in a society, while morality refers to a code of conduct in matters of right and wrong.

While, according to another school of thought, the law can be seen as a codified or formalised version of a culture’s morality or moral thinking. Legal or illegal status can generally be understood as an extension of perceived morality.

Over the years before the introduction of the modern courts in Zimbabwean societies, there were traditional courts that were presided over by village leaders, like chiefs and headmen.

The cases they dealt with included theft, incest and any other issues that were considered to be culturally and morally wrong.

When the legislature was adopted, it captured some of the tenets, before crafting them into a legal requisite, though it did not capture all the aspects.

In as far as some of the social aspects were not wholly adopted and accepted by the general populace, it still poses an effect on the public as a legal instrument.

This unacceptability of some of the issues is what needs probing pertaining to what should be accepted at law and that which can be considered a social and a legal wrong at the same time.

The debate brings to the fore the case of Independent End Time Message founder Robert Martin Gumbura, who is currently serving a 40-year prison term for raping several of his church congregants.

Gumbura is battling for his freedom, claiming the magistrate who presided over his trial erred in finding him guilty.

He has since notified the court of his intention to appeal against the decision, which his lawyer Thembinkosi Magwaliba said was an “unsubstantiated conclusion”.

High Court judge Joseph Musakwa is still to give a ruling on whether Gumbura should be released on bail, pending the determination of his appeal.

During the bail application, Magwaliba maintained his client’s innocence, while seeking to convince the court to believe Gumbura’s side of the story.

He raised a debatable issue, claiming that even if Gumbura’s perceived actions can be viewed as morally wrong, they cannot be treated as legally wrong.

“The judgment of the magistrates’ court cannot withstand scrutiny on appeal. The findings of the magistrate were patently wrong and the conviction of the applicant (Gumbura) was not as a result of the objective judicious assessment of the evidence by the court a quo,” Magwaliba said.

While, certain crimes committed by individuals can raise moral issues and public emotion, they might not be legally wrong.

In as far as legislation should reflect moral principles, there are certain cases that cannot be sustained legally.

There is also a glaring difference between law and morality, which is often noticed on the form of punishment one gets.

For breaking the law, one is punished by the courts but bad morals sometimes not punishable legally.

Comments (7)

God is not dead. God is on the throne. God is the judge. God is the owner of time. God is a God of knowledge. God is a God of freedom. When closes no one opens and when he opens no one closes. It's about time saints!

Servants of God - 28 April 2014

this article makes interesting reading. you should expand it and pursue the subject matter to its finality.

mukadota - 28 April 2014

Rape is both a legal and moral wrong by all definitions. Your argument is worth pursuing but the inclusion of Gumbura's case as an example is mistimed. If it could have been proved that he had consensual adulturous intercourse with the victims, then indeed the argument would be valid and worthwhile

The Philosopher - 28 April 2014

where the immora;ity was perfomed matters. If he is a minister of the God of Shadreck, Micheck and Abedinigo, let him be there, That Very God will bail him."How dare you make my Father's house, into a market of selling cattle." thus says The Lord.

think - 28 April 2014

This is an interesting story which ended abruptly. I'm sure the author was told to reduce the size to fit and simply chopped a big chunk. So was David who snatched in General (Uriah)'s wife (Abigail) convicted. Snatched the wife and sent the General to the war front. Mugabe also snatched a soldier: Stanley Goreraza's wife (Grace) and send him to China. That was morally wrong, militarily unacceptable, etc. But what happened to them

dick mboko - 28 April 2014

The Philosopher, he had to use Gumbura's cae because what Gumbura did was morally wrong but he definite;y did not rape anybody, those women willing gave in to his tricks. They even had the audacity to say he is better tghan their biyfriends, some even would not make a trip without passing through this Gumbura guy and you call that rape, my foot the magistrate could have a relative whose wife was easily fooled by Gumbura and as he rightly pointed the magistrate also was influenced by the sensationalisation of the story. Gumbura did not rape but he did something morally wrong for the shepherd of the flock. Else many men would be languishing in jail as we speak because women are easily fooled, and if fooling a woman to open her legs is a crime then many of us a guilty.

Maita Manyuka - 29 April 2014

Very interesting indeed. I have thought myself that public opinion judged Gumbura and not law. I really failed to see how the magistrate would conclude rape when a person got 'raped', went off to college, and came back to be raped again... And so on for years???

mau mau - 29 April 2014

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