HomeAnalysisBan on protests ruling — Judiciary resists tyranny

Ban on protests ruling — Judiciary resists tyranny

“The court struggles to imagine how such a man of advanced age participates in violence.”

High Court Justice Priscilla Chigumba’s ruling on Wednesday that government’s arbitrary ban on opposition parties and civic groups’ recent protests against President Robert Mugabe’s calamitous leadership, governance and policy failures, as well as their disastrous consequences was invalid is refreshing and symbolic.

Twitter: @MuckrakerZim

As the applicant, National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera)’s lawyer Tendai Biti, said it represented a “brave judgement that asserts the independence of the courts”.

Mugabe’s tirade against judges on Saturday last week against the backdrop of demonstrations once again showed the nonagenarian’s shameless disregard for the separation of powers — the pillar of modern, civilised and good governance — and the rule of law.

Mugabe castigated the judiciary for allowing a protest by opposition parties to push for electoral reforms and change.

“Our courts and judges should understand it even better. They dare not be negligent in their decisions as requests are made by people who would want to demonstrate,” Mugabe said in his address to his party Zanu PF’s youth league.

“Surely, they can take note of the fact that the mission is clear and deliberate towards causing violence.”

In other words, Mugabe blasted the judges for doing their job. That judges are guided by the constitution and not political considerations seemed to have escaped him.

Since he often claims to be a lawyer (he studied law and apparently everything else than can be read under the sun — this needs to be checked given a lot of academic fraud in our midst, which includes his wife’s fake PhD), he should know better.

Given his advanced age, it is difficult to establish whether this was Mugabe being arrogant or its senility taking its toll on the doddering leader. Whatever the case may be, it presents a dangerous precedent where the executive cherry-picks which judgments are acceptable to them and are politically expedient. Of course, there was nothing surprising as Mugabe has since 1980 showed both brazen contempt and baffling ignorance of the law. Yes, ignorance of the law from a supposed lawyer; remember Mugabe is also supposed to be an economist, yet his economic illiteracy and record is scandalous.

Mugabe must just accept that he is mainly good as a school teacher not as a president; it’s a great thing after all.

Emboldened by Mugabe’s contempt of the judiciary, Zanu PF Youth League national political commissar Innocent Hamandishe, in his address to Mugabe at the same meeting, promised to “take the law into our own hands to defend the party”. That a party thug makes a promise to violate the law to the one who has taken an oath to uphold it, shows just why the country is viewed as a banana republic. You just couldn’t make up such madness. We say kudos to Justice Chigumba who on Wednesday refused to be cowed by such crude state interference and struck out the ban. Let the peaceful protests roll on!

Police paranoia

Given the volatile mood of Zimbabweans as evidenced by recent demonstrations, it is understandable that the Zimbabwe Republic Police would look for any excuse to avoid protests. However, the reasons given by police in Bulawayo to stop the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rally to mark their first anniversary shows how paranoia and delusionism has become deeply entrenched in the police force.

“Serious threats have been received from various pressure groups through social media inciting people to declare a full war in Zimbabwe starting on September 2, to destroy all police properties, to destroy all roadblocks with fire, to blow up all government vehicles and buildings, attack all members of the prison services and release all prisoners from jail, seize Zimbabwe Revenue Authority by force, shut down all major shops until government changes, prevent all airlines from landing and taking off, allow bus operators to operate at their own risk and to blow up all Zupco buses and ambulances,” Chief Superintendent Mthokozisi Manzini Moyo said as reasons for not allowing the rally to go ahead.

This mouthful of drivel shows that someone in the police force has been watching far too many action movies to the point of being detached from reality. One would think that the PDP was a rebel movement not a political party going by Moyo’s delusional description. That they made an embarrassing climb-down, admitting the terrorism fears they raised ahead of a PDP rally in the city were a hoax, raises serious concerns of just how safe Zimbabweans are with police officers of this ilk protecting them.

This is the tragedy of Mugabe’s misrule.

Baffling behaviour

Still on the police, only a week after being in the headlines for all the wrong reasons for bludgeoning a frail, sickly and defenceless 62-year-old woman right on the doorstep of the Harare Magistrates’ Court, the police were at the receiving end of yet another tongue-lashing. This time it was from magistrate Tendai Mahwe who castigated them for arresting a 68-year-old for violence during the August 26 clashes.

“The court struggles to imagine how such a man of advanced age participates in violence,” Mahwe said, while granting bail to 11 of the 69 that were arrested for the skirmishes.

Well, Muckraker knows of a 92-year-old grandpa who has degrees in violence!

We also struggle to imagine the police fixation on beating up or arresting sexagenarians and apprehending journalists who are carrying out their duties as in the case of James Jemwa. It is difficult not to see the link between the overzealousness of the police to attack the opposition and the words of Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri in 2013 that he was not ashamed of supporting Zanu PF.

Besides, what do you really expect from a police force which equates Mugabe to Jesus Christ?

Members only

‘Members only, it’s a private party”, are the words of the 1985 track Members Only by blues and R&B singer Robert Calvin Brooks known professionally as Bobby Blue Bland. We were reminded of these words by the remarks of State Security minister Kembo Mohadi when he accused the government of denying national hero status to some deserving war cadres, particularly former PF-Zapu members.

Addressing mourners at the burial of former Zapu official and ex-detainee, Mugibela Phillip Kibi Muleya, who died last week and was declared liberation war hero, Mohadi said: “To us, he deserved more than this, we wanted him to be declared a national hero and buried at those hills (Heroes Acre). But we are not sure how it (hero selection process) is done. We should have been at the national shrine as we speak.”

For Mohadi, who is a Zanu PF politburo member, to question the criteria being used to select those buried at National Heroes Acre reinforces what many Zimbabweans, including those in the opposition MDC, have said about the spurious selection of those buried at the national shrine. Most of those buried there are those who had a good working relationship or were close to Mugabe which has turned the whole process of choosing national heroes into a huge farce.

This is further evidenced by Mugabe’s remarks on several occasions declaring that the national shrine is a Zanu PF members’ club only. The National Heroes Acre is now national in name only. No wonder why the late Welshman Mabhena, before his death in October 2010, made it clear he did not want “to be buried alongside thieves and crooks”.

short and sweet…

CIVIL Service Commission chairperson Mariyawanda Nzuwah, who racked up a shocking cellphone bill of US$200 000 while on a month-long foreign trip, could have paid at least 526 civil servants who earn an average salary of US$380 per month. Nzuwah defended himself saying the cellphone bill belongs to government as if to justify the abuse of state resources.

“What has that got to do with the Sunday Mail? I don’t want to comment because that is a government account and I am not an accounting officer … Why (then) do you want to base the story on rumours?” Nzuwah told the paper when he was contacted for comment.

Indeed, Mariyawanda is living by his name literally as he seems to think he has unlimited government funds which he can abuse with reckless abandon. His Shona name Mariyawanda in English means money is aplenty.

The civil servants boss knows how government is struggling to pay its workers every month and let alone on time, but he still manages to recklessly gobble such huge amounts on airtime. Maybe he should explain himself on this one because it is Treasury which is going to meet the costs at a time the broke government is trying to cut costs and reduce the wage bill. The matter should be taken further and investigated by the responsible authorities to find out what else this chap is spending state funds on.

One shudders to imagine where else he is splashing government funds when he can spend up to US$200 000 just on airtime. The lifestyle audit by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority was designed for people just like him!

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