Comment: The dangers of Zanu PF patronage

THE involvement of Ministers Theresa Makone and Didymus Mutasa in the Temba Mliswa saga and confessions from a police officer in court that the law enforcement agency was reluctant to arrest the Zanu PF activist because he was “untouchable”, bring to the fore the selective application of the law in the country.

According to media reports, Mliswa, who was initially arrested on a fraud charge together with Martin Mutasa, now faces 40 more charges which were apparently swept under the carpet because he was seen as “untouchable”.

As expected, the two ministers have tried to wriggle their way out of the matter, but this has left a serious dent in government’s commitment to the observation of the rule of law. The explanation given by the police in court on why it took them years to prosecute the 40 cases shows how Zanu PF patronage is used to protect some citizens even in instances where the police believe they have a case to answer.

The same law under which Mliswa was “protected” is used to hound government critics such as Farai Maguwu and incarcerate them indefinitely, even when courts grant them bail. Curiously, when reports of Maguwu being moved from remand prison to a police cell without the knowledge of his lawyers were made, there was no sympathy from any government minister save for the lone voices of civil society activists.

What is even more curious is the involvement of Theresa Makone whom the nation was made to believe would be a better performer than her predecessor, Giles Mutsekwa.

Makone, who professes to being a friend of the Mutasas since 1976, has rather naively tried to have the nation believe that she was merely assisting a fellow citizen on the whereabouts of his arrested son. If we are to believe Makone, then the fact that a whole minister had to visit police stations in search of a suspect suggests that people actually disappear in police custody. She is quoted on the wires as saying: “In MDC we have had so many people go missing, some after police arrests and others after abductions and there is no way that I as Minister of Home Affairs will sit and do nothing …”

What the nation now awaits with bated breath are the measures that she is putting in place to stem the trend. Is she setting up a committee to find out what happened to the MDC activists that she refers to?
At least the arrest of Mutasa’s son opened the minister’s eyes to the nightmare that the country’s police cells have turned out to be. It is common knowledge that some of the police cells are inhabitable and for a change, a Zanu PF official has actually acknowledged what ordinary Zimbabweans have always complained about, that Zimbabwean law is not blind. Mutasa was quoted in the media as saying: “It looks like we are back to Rhodesia where Ian Smith used a similar law to abuse innocent people.” 

Although police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena has said the ministers acted outside their authority, Zimbabweans await the action that will be taken against the politicians.

Bvudzijena said: “The (ZRP) views seriously the behaviour of the two ministers which sought to interfere with police work, particularly as the ministers sought to protect accused person facing charges of wantonly seizing property outside the law and threatening others.”

Those enjoying Zanu PF patronage should not laugh at Mliswa. This is a lesson to them as well. The system will only protect you when it is convenient to do so.       

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