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Candid Comment: A litmus test for a return to the rule of law

ZIMBABWEANS have been patiently waiting over the past days for a Pandora’s Box to be opened by the arrest of Zanu PF activist, Temba Mliswa, who stands accused of spoliation on commercial farms.

The spoliation comes in various forms ranging fom alleged fraud to outright theft allegations. The question that Zimbabweans have been asking each other in hushed tones was whether Mliswa was the only one or whether his was only the tip of the iceberg.

So far nothing has come out of it but suffice it to say commercial farmers have piles of case numbers and High Court orders that are not being executed because the police will not assist the aggrieved individuals in the return of the looted property.

The Mliswa case provided a perfect opportunity for Zanu PF to prove that it does not condone corruption by ensuring that everybody who did not use the Acquisition of Farm Equipment and Materials Act to acquire assets from commercial farms is brought to book.

Already police spokesman for Harare province, Oliver Mandipaka, has given an indication of what will happen. He was quoted in our sister publication, NewsDay, as saying: “First and foremost there is no farm looting that ever took place at any farm anywhere in Zimbabwe at any time. Other than Temba, we have no other case.”

We shall see. Mandipaka has placed himself in an invidious position. What for instance happened at Kondozi? Where is that equipment now?

This leaves a dent in the reputation of the police force and suggests that earlier statements made by the police in court that the law enforcement agency had not arrested Mliswa because he was “untouchable” are reflective of a broader inertia.

Elsewhere in this paper we publish a story on Mandipaka’s bosses contradicting him to the extent that one of them has prepared a dossier of cases that the police are reluctant to prosecute. Hopefully that is not the end of it. It is important that, like in any law-abiding country, those accused of committing crimes should be given an opportunity to clear their names in court. Instances where it seems as if the law is protecting individuals only serve to give the impression that there are people who are more equal than others.

It is instructive that police are embarking on an exercise to spruce up their image by seeking the views of ordinary citizens. That exercise will only be useful if the police took themselves seriously by ensuring that they are not accused of standing idly by while injustice triumphs. It is the duty of the police to ensure that those who reaped where they did not sow are brought to book. This will be a litmus test for the supposedly new order.

Edwin Dube

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