Courts turned into political battlefields

HARARE - Finding their voices against President Robert Mugabe activists and opposition parties have dared to dream, but some of those who openly challenged the 92-year-old strongman have found themselves locked up and hauled before the courts.

From Acie Lumumba who used the F-word against Mugabe, to vendors leader like Stern Zvorwadza, prosecutors have been presented with a handful as courts are turned into political battlegrounds.

No doubt Mugabe’s rivals have developed thick skin and are taking the bull by its horns, but the country’s laws that are yet to be aligned with a relatively progressive Constitution are still ensnaring.

Recently, Viva Zimbabwe president and former Zanu PF youth leader Lumumba found himself in the dock facing charges of undermining the authority of or insulting the President as defined in Section 33 (2) (b) of the Criminal Law.

And although Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku’s ruling on a similar case in which Douglas Mwonzora was accused of calling the president a ‘‘goblin’’ reprimanded prosecutors from pursuing such matters police continue to use the law.

“I myself am a politician in my own right in as much as the president is one, it is no secret that politicians call each other names, insult each other all the time and even the president does so himself. To therefore protect the president from a game he plays himself goes beyond the acceptable limitations of the right to freedom of expression,” Lumumba justified his utterances.

“It stifles descending voices and grants the president unnecessary immunity from criticism.”

When he launched his party, Lumumba, 28, said Mugabe has been spared verbal insults and he was taking it upon himself to cross the red-line.

“…Mugabe f**k you, I am drawing the red line our kids are in trouble so, it’s a red line…and my name is Lumumba, Lumumba, Lumumba…,” the court heard.

“…a war veteran’s child…,” he said, adding that Mugabe’s children will be dealt with too.”

A week later, Lumumba was brought back to court on forgery and fraud charges emerging from a 2008 incident in which he allegedly illegally imported a Toyota Ipsum.

Same was the fate for National Vendors Union chairperson, Zvorwadza, who, after appearing in court on threats to commit malicious damage to property after staging a demonstration at Rainbow Hotel in Harare was brought back within a week on a January 2013 charge.

Zvorwadza, recently led a group of demonstrators against vice president Phelekezela Mphoko who has been ensconced in the plushy hotel for more than a year now.

The vendors’ leader reportedly gave the hotel an ultimatum up to July 1, for the vice president to vacate, failure of which he would mobilise thousands of his members to demonstrate and declare Rainbow Towers Hotel closed.

Charges against Zvorwadza are many and last week he was back in court again after he had led a demonstration against municipal police whom he and his group alleged are corrupt.

He was charged with disorderly conduct in a public place together with 13 of his members.

Zvorwadza has been on record castigating Zimbabwe Republic Police for their failure to enforce the law.

“What the police do clearly defies the rule of law. People are supposed to depend on them for protection but in the Zimbabwean case they are actually the architects of terror. What they do not know is that what they have started may actually fuel civil unrest,” Zvorwadza said.

His main argument is that section (59) of the Constitution gives citizens the right to demonstrate and petition in a peaceful manner.

And other activists like Patson Dzamara, whose brother, Itai, has been missing since last year, found themselves facing theft charges.

Activist and Tajamuka/Sesijikile spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi has also been an unwilling guest of the courts facing public violence charges after he had gone around banks with serpentine queues and announcing that Mphoko was a thief.

Tajamuka/Sesijikile is a youth movement comprising 14 opposition political parties and 45 civic organisations.

Some of the opposition parties which are part of the group include, Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), MDC led by Welshman Ncube, Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe (RDZ), Zunde, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn, Transform Zimbabwe, Free Zim, Dare and Zanu Ndonga.

Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni has his fair share of Zimbabwe’s ‘‘jeopardised’’ justice delivery system recently when he hopped from one court to another as he fought charges of public abuse of office.

Manyenyeni was being charged with criminal abuse of office and corruptly concealing personal interest in transaction.

High Court judge Lavender Makoni had reinstated Manyenyeni following his application in which he challenged Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere’s decision to suspend him.

Manyenyeni was suspended for the second time early this month prompting him to file the urgent chamber application.

This also comes after the High Court initially gave an order, ruling that in terms of the law the minister was only empowered to suspend a mayor, but could only remove him from office through an independent tribunal that is supposed to look into the matter.

After his first suspension, Manyenyeni’s matter, according to the law was supposed to be heard within 45 days.

However, Kasukuwere failed to set up the independent tribunal board, leading to Manyenyeni re-assuming duty.

Manyenyeni was however, suspended within 24 hours of re-assuming duty.

The basis of his suspension is that he employed banker James Mushore as the town clerk without getting approval from the Local Government Board.

In his current High Court application in which he cited Kasukuwere and Attorney General Prince Machaya as respondents, Manyenyeni argued that his suspension is “unlawful, void and of no force or effect”.

“There is no scope under Section 114 (1) of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15) for a second suspension, whether on the same or different grounds, if the allegations founding the previous suspension were never determined by the independent tribunal contemplated under Section 278 of the Constitution,” Manyenyeni said.

Comments (1)

Hi I m a part and a member of the online journalist association and I m looking at the Robert Mugabe legacy from both sides can you give me useful e mails or web sites

David O'dowling - 24 July 2016

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