Lawyers attack Mugabe over Mutasa lawsuit

HARARE - Legal experts say former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa is now unlikely to get a fair court hearing after President Robert Mugabe warned the judiciary on Friday not to entertain his case against Zanu PF and the nonagenarian.

Speaking at the official opening of Africa Chrome Fields’ (ACF’s) smelting plant in Zibagwe, Mugabe said the court application that Mutasa and former Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo had filed against him and the ruling party was not one for the judges to handle.

The president added controversially that he would also question the qualifications of any judge who would accept to hear the case.

The comments raised alarm among legal experts, with many saying that the president was pre-empting and prejudicing Mutasa’s case making and also compromising the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.

Constitutional law expert, Alex Magaisa, said Mugabe’s remarks were in bad taste and had the net effect of inducing fear among judges given the position he held.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the president has had to go down that route. Judges must not operate in circumstances that induce fear and intimidation.

“These statements might be regarded as pre-empting the judicial decision-making process and it also puts a dent on judicial independence. If Mutasa and Gumbo’s case has no merit, let the courts make that determination,” he said.

The United Kingdom-based lawyer added that Mugabe’s remarks suggested that Mutasa’s case had merits, and as such, the only way the president could think of to sink the matter was to intimidate judges.

“But when such statements are made, it suggests that there is real fear that the case has merit and the only way to win it is to intimidate the judges.

“This gives a poor impression at a time when Zimbabwe is slowly finding its way back into the broader community of nations,” Magaisa said.

Another constitutional law expert, Lovemore Madhuku, also tore into Mugabe saying the president was now an old man living in the past.

“I think such remarks should be condemned as irresponsible. Mugabe is an old man living in the past.

“He thinks we are still in the period 1980 to 1985 when he used to intimidate judges. But that period is over and nowadays no judge is intimidated by threats from the executive,” he said.

The University of Zimbabwe lecturer added that it was clear that Mugabe was ignorant of the law, as there was no matter that could be said to be outside the ambit of the judiciary.

“The major problem with Mugabe is that he has limited understanding of the law. He studied law in prison and he never went to a law school.

So his understanding of law is limited.

“There is no matter or dispute that cannot be brought to court. Under the constitution there is no matter that can be said to be non-judiciable. Mugabe is ignorant of this fact,” he said.

Madhuku added that Mutasa’s lawyers should capitalise on Mugabe’s remarks to dismiss the nonagenarian’s defence in court.

He also called on Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku to issue a statement demanding that the executive stops interfering with the judiciary.

“What his lawyers should do when they go to court is to raise the issue that Mugabe’s remarks, as one of the respondents, were inappropriate as the matter is sub judice, and therefore his defence in court should be dismissed on that basis,” he said.

“Unfortunately, there are no remedies to the matter because a president cannot be arrested. But the Chief Justice can issue a statement like what Chief Justice Enoch Dumbutshena did in 1989 calling upon the executive to stop interfering with the judiciary,” Madhuku said.

Dewa Mavhinga, Human Rights Watch Southern Africa senior researcher, said Mugabe was undermining the independence of the judiciary.

“As a party to the court case in question, President Mugabe should not be making any comments about the chances of Mutasa’s case succeeding.

That is for the court and the court alone to decide.

“As head of state representing the executive arm of government, Mugabe’s statements undermine the independence of the judiciary and the constitutional principle of separation of powers,” he said.

Mavhinga added that Mugabe’s intimidation of judges was a clear violation of the constitution.

“President Mugabe should respect the constitution which requires that the executive cannot infringe on the independence of the judiciary and legislature and vice-versa. Such unwarranted and pre-emptive criticism of the judiciary amounts to intimidation,” Mavhinga said.

Mutasa has taken Mugabe and Zanu PF to court over what he claims was an unconstitutional party congress last December, as well as what he calls his “un-procedural” expulsion from the ruling party.

In their heads of arguments, Mutasa and Gumbo say they delayed launching their court application because many lawyers had “been intimidated into refusing to represent us”.

Opposition parties have also criticised Mugabe for his threats against the judiciary, but the veteran leader remains unfazed.

Mugabe maintains that Mutasa’s case is weak and that the courts must not entertain it.

“Regai kumboita hanya neavo vanoti tinonoman’arira party…ndiani akamboti policy yeparty, yebumbiro reparty rinotibatanidza bumbiro renyika (who said the party constitution that binds us is the same as the country’s Constitution?) the nonagenarian asked rhetorically in Zibagwe on Friday.

Two weeks ago, Mugabe also said during an interview with State television, to mark his 91st birthday, that he would want to see the judge who would agree to hear “that kind of nonsense”.

Comments (14)

hapana nyaya apa.

barue - 8 March 2015

This is bullying yekumombe chaiyo.The interference of Mugabe in judicial matters is a constitutional affair and the Human Rights lobby must take the matter to the Constitutional Court.

Kufandada - 8 March 2015

Nyaya iripo. Zanu-PF has a constitution and it has to be followed. Failing to follow the constitution requires an external arbitration. No arbitration surpasses the high court of the republic of Zimbabwe. The president's intimidating remarks to the judiciary are regrettable. The sad story is that is the Mafia Zanu-PF cult Godfather and has had his way all the time. Now it is up to the judiciary to to live up the independent execution of duty. RG Mugabe will not live forever. History will live forever. It is actually more intimidating to fail Zimbabwe than to fail RG Mugabe. Chidyagausiku must also look forward to his own individual legacy independent of Zanu-PF and RG Mugabe. If Chidyausiku fails to discharge independent hearing of this matter, then he is not worth the ten cents salt in his own blood.

Mbareboy - 8 March 2015

How I wish we lived in a democracy. Where each time we don't unwittingly attract negative publicity. It destructive. Once again, my president, think of you legacy.....where you leave behind, as you earlier promised, a united Zimbabwe, characterized by unprecedented growth and economic development, a law abiding political party, a disciplined youth and, above all, a populace that shall respect you for ever. Now why these unguarded threats?

Dr Tapera - 8 March 2015

Hahaha, let Mutasa and gumbo stew in their gravy! I don't give a damn. When Mugabe was accusing everyone else of treason, coup plots, banditry, etc, they were at the forefront frothing on his behalf. Deal with them Gushungo. Fools!

Phaphamani - 8 March 2015

My biggest disappointment is with those people, who, when their material "basis" for supporting ZPF is threatened or eroded, they then "open" their eyes to those issues they had "closed" their eyes to. This is the worst type of "leader" because he/she has no principles. Whilst RMG is not my hero - his detractors have not showed us any better traits by leading from the front. They all appear to be opportunists which is not good for the country.

Nathanjo Yomo - 9 March 2015

This is direct dictatorship from the nonagenarian. Where is their alleged democracy in the country. We are now a colony of Robert Mugabe

Mhhfd fgyrf uhywfiu uig - 9 March 2015

Mugabe made an oath to uphold the Constitution when he was sworn in therefore that breach of oath warrants his arrest. He has failed to uphold to the Constitution he swore to therefore he losses his immunity. The party he represents must have it's license revoked and assets frozen including those in government. Law is law and the same for everyone. Mugabe isn't above the law and also ZANU PF is not above the law therefore see no reason of enforcing regulatory compliance. Threats and intimidation are the hallmarks of ZANU PF not a progressive party but a terrorist organisation.

Ed - 9 March 2015

This is what happens when citizens abandon their right to question leadership, and follow blindly the dictates of an individual. This is what happens when cronyism, corruption, tribalism, bigotry and racism are allowed to trample democracy. This is what happens when military interests, and individual interests are allowed to supplant national interests. When people in Matebeleland were being maimed and killed in the 1980s a certain population group was ululating. They thought they owned Mugabe. Kwete! Mugabe is a control freak, kana maneta ndipo paanoda! Feel him now and learn from the stupidity of your voting patterns.

Phaphamani - 9 March 2015

Well said Ed, Mugabe should now be impeached ie fired in disgrace.

ronaldos - 9 March 2015

Mugabe and ZPF cabinet ministers have been laying their hands for decades on God's Holy Bible and swearing to uphold the constitution and laws of the country etc. Have they? I see judgment coming! It will be better to repent. I wonder if RGM knows what the bible says about crooked justice????

TruthBTold - 9 March 2015

Mugabe has done nothing wrong he is simply holding a BAZZOKA over the judges head kikikikikikikikiki he is yet to fire kikikikikikikikik hahhahhahahaheheheehhehe maybe the madam told him to say so

Harare - 9 March 2015

MUGABE is now a loose canyon he must be impeached..He was telling minister of justice not to entertain mutasa case..why?

Madzviti - 9 March 2015

What goes around comes around. ZPF is being damaged from within. That sense off oneness and comradeness faded long back. Thanks to the mafikizolo who are working day and night sinking the old ship

zero - 12 March 2015

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.