Mutasa’s case riles legal dunderheads

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The debate surrounding Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo’s court application on the legality of Zanu PF’s controversial congress last December is proving increasingly unedifying with the Herald and its handlers declaring that President Mugabe never threatened judges over the issue despite his naked intimidation of the judiciary.

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Government has slammed MDC lawyers, the Herald said, who accused Mugabe of threatening judges and magistrates against handling the case. Mugabe warned High Court judges against presiding over the matter saying no judge or magistrate had the power to preside over internal Zanu PF matters.

Mugabe said: “If there is a magistrate or judge who will want to preside over this matter, then I would like to know where he/she went to school and where he/she got the powers to rule over Zanu PF. I will ask because this matter is not one for the courts. If we say we no longer want you in our party and want you to leave, is that a problem?”

This is nonsense. Judges have the right to pronounce on whatever is brought before them. They don’t need the government to give its approval. The president doesn’t seem to know that.

Mugabe’s comments were awfully ignorant as he suggested that Zanu PF is above the law. Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku must not just complain about the media, but also deal with politicians like Mugabe who do not only comment on cases which are sub judice, but go on to intimidate the judges.

By the way, what sort of a lawyer is Mugabe who seems always keen to display his ignorance of the law to all and sundry? Is Mugabe really a lawyer or what?

Since he reportedly has seven studied degrees, what really is his area of speciality? Teaching? Ignorance is not a crime but there is nothing more frightening than ignorance in action.

Free lecture

Muckraker would like to thank Dr Alex Magaisa for providing Mugabe, his Information minister Jonathan Moyo and their state-run Herald hacks a free lecture on the law.

Dealing with the matter, Magaisa wrote: “The short answer to the question whether a court has the jurisdiction (power) to make a determination over a legal challenge brought by a member against a political party is, of course, that it does. This is trite.

“There can be no question about that. Section 171(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that the High Court ‘has original jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters throughout Zimbabwe’. This is an unqualified power, which confers upon the High Court the power to preside over any kind of civil dispute, whether or not it has political connotations.

“But this simple answer has been clouded by political statements made by senior politicians and commentary in the state media, to the extent that there is now a lot of confusion and the public is beginning to have doubts over the competence of the courts to handle a matter such as the legal challenge that has been brought by Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo against Zanu PF and its leadership.”

Magaisa added: “I have noted that, in the last few days, a certain view has been propagated largely by politicians and the state media, suggesting that the internal affairs of political parties are somehow beyond judicial scrutiny.

This view has appeared in various guises, with a thread seemingly suggesting that when something is done in terms of the party constitution, it means the national constitution has nothing to do with it.

“Overall, an impression has been given that whatever happens within political parties is political and internal to the political party and must, therefore, be resolved within the confines of the political party.

Consequently, the view suggests, national courts and the national constitution have no role in the resolution of disputes arising in that context.

This view and all variants of it are profoundly incorrect and based on a poor comprehension of the law. While it is true that what happens in a political party constitutes its internal affairs, there is no bar to members of a political party taking legal action to enforce their rights within that political party.

“What seems to be the basis of the incorrect view peddled by politicians is the confusion between legal merit, on the one hand, and political wisdom on the other hand. In conclusion, there can be no doubt that political parties can be challenged in court by their members and that courts have jurisdiction to handle such disputes.

Whether or not there is political wisdom in taking such legal action is a separate question. But this does not mean the law prevents members from taking legal action against their parties. Such action might not make political sense, but it does not mean it lacks legal sense.”

Well, this should be clear enough even to legal dunderheads. If Mugabe, Moyo and their cheerleaders choose to resist free education on constitutional and legal matters — our jurisprudence — after this then that’s now their problem, not ours!

Thieving relatives

We were not unduly dismayed to read of the thefts taking place on the president’s property. Mugabe lost property and produce worth thousands of dollars to daring thieves, some working in cahoots with his own relatives and a police officer guarding the property, the Herald tells us.

Probably those thieves should have written a note to Mugabe like South African housebreakers who once left a message for Mandela after stealing from a state property saying “Sorry Madiba, we were hungry”.

Falling presidents

Zambia appears to have followed Zimbabwe’s example of electing as its head a president who is inclined to fall over. President Edgar Lungu had an awkward fall at the Heroes Stadium in Lusaka during the International Women’s Day celebrations and is still under medical treatment.

With two presidents dying in office in Zambia in recent years, things are a little jittery. At least Lungu’s spin-doctors didn’t come up with strange explanations like “breaking a fall” to explain the unfortunate incident like Mugabe’s after his recent dramatic tumble.

AU mandate

Mugabe’s mandate from the African Union includes we understand the eradication of racism. Has he started with himself? It would be ironic indeed if Africa was led by a veteran politician who was hostile to whites and seized their property solely on the basis of skin colour.

How do Sadc heads reconcile their mission with this anomaly?

In this connection we note that old anomaly Tomaz Salomao, who is continuing to promote Sadc agendas with nothing to show for it. He lacked any independence of thought during his tenure and left a legacy of partisan politics and handling of issues. We do wish him a happy retirement even though he was a disaster.

The irony

Mugabe has been commenting on a US$100 million overhaul of equipment at the Harare Central Hospital which he commissioned. The country’s health system would be more efficient and reduce the number of patients seeking treatment outside the country, Mugabe said.

Does that include himself we wonder? He has absolutely no sense of irony. His hypocrisy knows no bounds. He must stop going to Singapore first before we can listen and take him seriously.

Mahofa joke
As for Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa, we liked the joke going around regarding her employment. At her appointment ceremony, she is reported to have told the president that as well as climbing stairs she was unable to perform a whole range of important tasks.

“You will do nicely,” the president replied.
Oh my gosh!

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