Zanu PF's convenient application of law

HARARE - Zanu PF members sympathetic to Vice President Mujuru are losing patronage benefits of office, status, power, wealth and impunity as factionalism takes its toll.

In the past week, Rugare Gumbo, Jabulani Sibanda and several of the party’s provincial chairpersons have had some of these benefits withdrawn.

The ultimate target is, of course, Mujuru.

At the weekend, it was reported that Gumbo was plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe. Gumbo, suspended for five years, was apparently recorded allegedly saying Mugabe would face the same fate as the late DRC leader, Laurent Kabila, who was assassinated, if the Zanu PF leader continued to block Mujuru.

His “co-accused” Didymus Mutasa is alleged to have said Mugabe “will be shot” for the same reason.

A minister in Mashonaland Central is alleged to have met the hit-men. Given that Savior Kasukuwere and Nicholas Goche are the two ministers in the province, it does not take a genius to identify the target here.

The knives are also out for Ray Kaukonde, Dzikamai Mavhaire and of course Goche.

Two weeks ago, I said the so-called renegades would lose their meal tickets and or face jail. Gumbo and Sibanda have lost office.

Ultimately, the weapon is the law. There is now clamour for Gumbo, Mutasa and Mujuru to be charged with treason.

More allegations will emerge against more people.

The use of the law against political rivals has been a feature in polities where the state and ruling party are deliberately conflated.

Chinese politician Bo Xilai is languishing in prison after a trial on corruption that many observers saw as a way of eliminating an ambitious rival within the Communist Party.

The anti-Mujuru lobby had hoped she would have resigned after humiliation by Grace Mugabe. War veterans have called on her to resign in light of the new allegations.

Clearly, Mujuru’s quiet and stoic resistance has infuriated her enemies. 

The second strategy now is to link her to very serious criminal charges after allegations of commercial impropriety seemed weak, again in the hope that she would resign before the December congress.

However, whether the cited remarks alone — assuming the accused persons made them in the first place — and links made to Mujuru will pass the test for the charge of treason I will leave it to the fundis in domestic criminal law.

To a layman, nonetheless, the link, again, seems weak.

History cautions us to be circumspect. We have known of the selective application of law. But Mugabe’s government has also tended to apply the law conveniently.

Including stings, the aim is to eliminate perceived political opponents.

In 1997, Zanu founder, Ndabaningi Sithole, now late, was convicted of treason and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

Sithole, who had formed rival Zanu-Ndonga, may have been subjected to due process but the ruling party conflation raised doubts about judicial impartiality and his conviction.

He maintained he had been set up by the state security service.

Mugabe never forgave Sithole, who also had his Churu Farm seized by the government.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was also accused of treason. The case centred on the testimony of Ari Ben-Menashe, a Canada-based consultant.

Ben-Menashe claimed that Tsvangirai asked for help to “eliminate” Mugabe, backing the claims with a grainy videotape of meetings he held with the MDC leader in London and Montreal, where the alleged assassination talks took place in 2001.

In 2004, Tsvangirai was acquitted because the State case was not credible.

“Nowhere in the videotape is there a request of Ari Ben-Menashe to assassinate Mugabe and stage a coup,” said Justice Paddington Garwe.

The difference now is Zanu PF has turned on its own to eliminate purported “enemies” within.

It is easy not to sympathise with victims of the current Zanu PF purge because after a history of violence and suspected corruption, they are receiving their comeuppance. 

But, in truth, this is just convenient application of law. If law is to have integrity, it should be applied fairly, all the time, irrespective of political affiliation.

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