I WAS intrigued by VP Joseph Msika’s speech at the prisons commissioner’s sundowner last week. The VP’s insight into a number of issues of national importance has
at times been at variance with those of his ilk.
I recall in 2001 when he berated war veterans who had gone on a crusade to remove from government employment anyone perceived to be a member of the opposition.
He warned them: “When we fought the war, we had discipline. Some of the things you are doing now leave a lot of question marks. Do not destroy institutions of the government when you are part of the government.”
He also did not have kind words for war veterans who were rampaging on the farms. At the Zanu PF conference in Masvingo he was accused of partaking whiskey with white farmers seen as opponents of the government. Last year he raised concern over the invasion on Kondozi Farm in Odzi and received a bashing from overweening functionaries in the party.
Do other officials in his party and government listen when he speaks? Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa should take heed of the elderly politician’s speech at the prisons commissioner’s sundowner. He could have put his government in an invidious position in his quest for judiciousness in the area of criminal law. He spoke candidly about the unfairness of holding prisoners for long periods of time without trial.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” he told the prison officers. “This is what our colonial oppressors used to do. They would put someone in prison for a long period of time awaiting trial and we cannot have that in independent Zimbabwe. I am a strong believer in that a man is innocent until proven guilty,” he said.
This is an unequivocal platitude, which progressive democracies would like to be seen to be embracing.
Government’s information barons have been telling us that the Zanu PF government brought “independence and democracy”. The party does not want to be associated with relics of the colonial era, especially at a time when it has declared the general election an anti-Blair poll.
Msika’s assertion is politically correct but I hope he meant well. I am sure he has not forgotten that Finance minister Chris Kuruneri is rotting in prison awaiting trial for alleged externalisation of forex. He has been in there since April last year and his case has not gone to trial.
I would also like to believe that Msika has not forgotten about former central committee member James Makamba who spent at least six months in remand prison before facing trial. Can someone remind the vice-president that Phillip Chiyangwa was abducted and held incommunicado for more than two weeks before he was produced in court on espionage charges.
The High Court ordered his unconditional release two weeks ago.
The list is long. It also includes businessman Cecil Muderede who was last year locked away without trial for seven months on multiple charges of externalisation and fraud.
These people will testify that justice delayed is justice denied. They were not held for long periods by a colonial government but a government that claims to have brought democracy and the rule of law to Zimbabwe! Is that so, Mr VP?
Nhai VaMsika, do you recall that last year your party brought to parliament legislation to amend the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act which gave the police authority to arrest and detain suspects in serious commercial crime cases for up to 21 days without them appearing in court?
I am sure the VP was in the House on July 1 last year when the Bill was passed. That legislation is not in sync with your sentiments. I share your sentiments that a man is innocent until proven guilty.
MDC legislator David Coltart called the amendment “the most fascist legislation passed by this parliament yet, reminiscent of the worst apartheid-era provisions”.
Can I also remind you that the judicial system in Zimbabwe has not yet finalised challenges by the opposition MDC of Zanu PF victories in certain constituencies in the 2000 election. Is that not justice delayed or is it denied?
A number of Zanu PF MPs whose mandate in parliament is under challenge will complete their terms and they are lining up to contest another poll at the end of the month.
To use your own words VaMsika, “we cannot have that in independent Zimbabwe”. Let not only justice be done, but it must be seen to be done if we want the world to take us seriously.