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Muckraker: Plasma Screens In Judicial Comfort Zone

A HEADING in last Friday’s Herald caught our attention. “Judges get vehicles, goods” it read.


The Reserve Bank has “donated” a fleet of new vehicles, generators, plasma screen television sets, and satellite dishes to improve their conditions of service, we were told.

While ordinary judges got 32-inch plasma-screen TV sets, the Chief Justice and Judge President got 42-inch screen sets.

The central bank funded the acquisition of 16 top-of-the-range Mercedes Benz E class saloons.

Each judge is entitled to a new Mercedes Benz after five years in terms of their conditions of service, Master of the High Court Charles Nyatanga explained.

“We are very happy that at long last the judges have been given their entitlement,” he said.

Apart from the Mercedes Benz the judges have utility vehicles which include Toyota IMV and Isuzu trucks.

Nyatanga said it was not desirable for judges to drive their Mercedes in rough terrain going to their farms. He also commended the donation of generators.

“We have problems of power outages in the country and judges do not work in their chambers alone but carry their work home,” he said.

“They need to write their judgements at home and during weekends.”

Muckraker would be keen to know exactly how much time judges spend on their farms as against time spent in chambers.

And should the Reserve Bank be “dishing” out satellite dishes and other perks when ordinary people are struggling to keep mind and soul together?

How sensitive is it for the Herald to proclaim “Judges get vehicles, goods” in the midst of the worst economic crisis the country has experienced?

And doesn’t this raise an impression of state patronage which judges should be anxious to avoid?

Judges need to be well-paid and well-resourced. But not on an ad hoc basis.

They need to be seen as independent of state agencies such as the Reserve Bank, especially when the bank has been criticised for its quasi-fiscal role.

How will judges react in cases where the Reserve Bank or its officials are involved in litigation?

We were interested to read the Supreme Court ruling that the decision by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to exclude Daniel Shumba and Justin Chiota from the March election was unlawful.

The two, who head respectively the United Peoples Party and Zimbabwe People’s Party, had challenged the decision of the ZEC to exclude them in March.

If they had sought to quash the election there would have had to be a re-run. But they settled for a declaratory order.

They claimed that the refusal of the nomination court to accept their papers violated their rights.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and the four other judges who heard the constitutional application agreed.

This is highly significant. The ZEC has been busy congratulating itself on its conduct of the March and June polls.

And the government has been quick to publicise the views of those observer missions that reported the ZEC as doing a good job.

In particular the decision by the ZEC to rule Morgan Tsvangirai’s decision to abandon the June run-off as of no legal effect enabled President Mugabe to maintain the fiction that the MDC leader was still in the contest.

And we still haven’t heard what accounted for the five-week delay in the announcement of the March presidential poll results or the curious way in which the constituency results were announced, in dribs and drabs, when all the results were already in.

That aside, it would be useful to know why Shumba and Chiota decided in this latest matter to eschew their right to fight an election when the court ruled in their favour.

Were they serious contenders or not?

And who fed the Herald the disingenuous paragraph saying: “Although the outcome has no bearing on the already completed election, the ruling of the court will provide a useful guideline for future conduct of election officials”?

There has been some correspondence in the press recently about church leaders who remained silent during the pogroms taking place in the countryside after March 29 but were suddenly voluble on how we must all work together with President Mugabe for peace once his main object was secure.

We were therefore interested to see the chairman of the Eminent Church Leaders in Zimbabwe, the Rev Andrew Wutawunashe, attacking the US, Britain and the EU for using sanctions “as a weapon of pressure” to ensure that “an outcome according to their own definition prevails”.

Isn’t that exactly what Zanu PF did after March 29?

What is this outfit that Wutawunashe heads called the Eminent Church Leaders in Zimbabwe? We have never heard of it.

Perhaps Wutawunashe could tell us what he said about the violence taking place in May and June? We are sure he denounced it but seem to have missed seeing his statement!

In case you were in any doubt where Wutawunashe’s sympathies lie, he made it abundantly clear in his fulsome tribute to Thabo Mbeki.

“President Mbeki has suffered completely unjustified, irrelevant and unwarranted criticism from those who, had this process been put in their hands, this country would now be in flames,” Wutawunashe declared.

“The voice of his critics is not the voice of African patriots but rather that of those who would sooner see African people under the tutelage of colonial masters.”

So no change there then.

Have you noticed how the totalitarian instincts of Zanu PF and its allies manifest themselves in every facet of public life? “This is the final battle for total control,” President Mugabe declared in the run-off. That seems to include mind control.

When Gideon Gono delivers his monetary review we all have to rally round and support his latest project like Bacossi when all his previous projects flopped.

And when the ruling party beats its way back into power we all have to support the talks that emerge as it tries to salvage what it can from the wreckage of the economy by engaging those it viciously denounced only a few weeks before?

Indeed, anybody exercising their democratic right to comment on the talks or express some very sensible scepticism around Mbeki’s gullible record are denounced by the regime’s apologists as saboteurs.

We now have the strange situation where Mbeki is more popular in certain circles in Zimbabwe than he is in South Africa!

Mbeki’s mother Epainette wrote to the Sunday Times a few months ago to express her views which did nothing for her son. But we were amused by what a reader, Patrick Rampai, had to say in response: “Mbeki is a cunning, manipulative, and vindictive character, and from MaMbeki’s pronouncements one can see that the apple does not fall very far from the tree.”

Meanwhile, Zimbabweans should avoid any schadenfreude over Mbeki’s slow-motion demise.

Those predators with their eyes on his job are providing power-point lessons in misrule that would make Mugabe’s minions green with envy.

Reflecting the changing mood in South Africa where quiet diplomacy no longer cuts quite the same ice, Home Affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has responded positively to appeals from the UNHCR not to deport Zimbabwean refugees.

“I cannot continue blindly to behave as though nothing is happening across the Limpopo,” she said in Durban late last month after a meeting of regional security, defence and home affairs ministers.

“I am not dumb. We can all appreciate the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe . . . I mean we have seen pictures of people who have been beaten up, women who have been burnt.”

While she said she didn’t want to attribute this to any particular group, “It doesn’t matter. The point is that there is clear violence.”

Here at least is somebody who doesn’t think it’s all “lies”!

The UNHCR, by the way, said it detected a new pattern emerging in cross-border migration.

While previously 90% of those crossing the Limpopo were single men seeking work, now whole families were crossing over to avoid political violence, it said last month.

The Sunday Mail’s business section last weekend carried a large picture of RBZ deputy governor Edward Mashiringwani having a chat with Zimra commissioner-general Gersham Pasi.

Mashiringwani, readers may recall, last featured in this column when it was reported that he had refused to allow the SPCA to take food or water to starving pigs on his seized farm. Driven insane by hunger and thirst they ended up eating their piglets.

We wonder what tips he was offering Pasi?

The privately-owned Sunday Standard newspaper of Botswana carried the following item on July 27 which may be of interest to our readers.

“It has surfaced that one of Robert Mugabe’s one-time leading supporters is hiding in Botswana, quietly working as a journalism lecturer at one of the colleges inside the country,” the newspaper reported, following Muckraker’s disclosure of several weeks ago.

“Caesar Zvayi, who used to be the Political and Features Editor of the state-controlled Herald newspaper is among the 37 supporters of Mugabe who were this week listed by the European Union for sanctions and travel ban,” it said.

“Zvayi is described as a key supporter of Mugabe who masterminded Zanu PF’s publicity campaigns.

“Zvayi and Munyaradzi Huni become the first journalists to join Zimbabwe’s notorious elite sanctioned by the European Union from entering Europe.

“Munyaradzi Huni works for Mugabe’s weekly Sunday Mail while
Zvayi worked for the government daily, the Herald.”

Publication of that story led to the following on the zimbabwemetro.com website headed “Batswana want Caesar Zvayi deported”.

“Following the revelation that Robert Mugabe’s leading surrogate is hiding in Botswana working as a lecturer at one of the colleges, some citizens have called for him to be deported from Botswana.

“The Botswana Standard reported on Sunday that Caesar Zvayi who was until recently the (political) editor of the government propaganda mouthpiece the Herald is lecturing at LimKokWing University in Gaborone. He teaches among others the courses Writing for Print and News Writing and Reporting 1 in the university’s Faculty of Communications and Media.

“Some students said they were not aware that Zvayi was a key Mugabe supporter and called for him to be kicked out of the country and the school should find a replacement.

“If he supports Mugabe he must go back. He can be easily replaced by another lecturer from Zimbabwe with morals.

“How can anyone support Mugabe when people are suffering, after all why is he in Botswana if he thinks Mugabe is doing the right thing?” said Kagiso Seloma, a student at the university.

“Seloma’s sentiments were echoed by Gaborone resident Mary Kokorwe who said Zimbabweans should stage a demonstration at the university.

“‘He should be arrested for promoting hate and Zimbabweans should demonstrate at the university campus, because that should send a message to those who are violating other people’s rights in Zimbabwe right now that they will not get away with it.’

“Other students and locals expressed similar sentiments,” zimbabwemetro.com reported. “Anti-Mugabe sentiments are particularly strong among Botswana citizens and the Botswana government has taken a particular hardline stance against Mugabe,” the website said.

“Zvayi has in the past openly called for the alienation of the opposition and celebrated the violent crackdown on the opposition in that country.

“He is well known for bastardising the MDC acronym to mean Movement for the Destruction of our Country, sometimes with the word ‘movement’ (substituted with) ‘morons’. Last year he used a racial slur against the US Ambassador calling him a ‘house nigger’.”

Batswana and Zimbabwean commentators make up in enthusiasm what they lack in skills.

Zvayi’s first name was misspelt throughout the Sunday Standard story and is misspelt again (twice) in a letter to President Ian Khama sent by Zimbabwean students complaining about Zvayi’s presence in Botswana. Their spokesman claimed Zvayi was teaching at the University of Botswana, addressed Khama as “Your Excellence” and concluded the letter with “Regards”!

Perhaps Zvayi’s literary skills are needed at home.

History was made” the Herald declared last month when Ambassador Mohamed Lemine Selmane became Mauritania’s first envoy to Zimbabwe.

The ambassador, based in Pretoria, had presented his credentials at State House the day before.

Zimbabwe has precious few friends nowadays so this ostensibly insignificant event was trumpeted as historic. The ambassador passed on the greetings of President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi.

It’s therefore somewhat unfortunate that President Abdallahi was overthrown in a coup this week. His poor ambassador in Pretoria is now stranded.

At the same ceremony in Harare Nigeria’s ambassador Adekunle Adeyanju pledged to improve relations between the two countries.

It may be recalled that Nigeria has pronounced negatively upon the election run-off result. So we were not surprised that as soon as the ambassador started to give his views ZBC had a “technical problem” which blocked out what he said.

Not in this case an “historic” event. Just the usual interference!


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