SEVERAL high profile government officials, including members of the presidium frequented the courts in the year 2020 on various issues ranging from marital disputes, labour issues and name dropping in high profile scandals.
The year 2020 also saw bigwigs in political circles being charged and tried before the courts mainly on graft charges, more than what has happened in the Mugabe era.
These include former Cabinet ministers Prisca Mupfumira on abusing NSSA funds and former Health minister Obadia Moyo on the $60 million Covid-19 tender scam, former University of Zimbabwe vice-chancellor Levi Nyagura on the Grace Mugabe PhD saga, among others, but there was no significant prosecution and convictions on the cases and most of them have spilled into 2021.
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s name was popular at the courts, following his complaint against his estranged wife Marry Mubaiwa whom he accused of attempting to kill him while he was on life support at a South African hospital.
Then followed his nasty divorce with the former model, who was later arrested and charged for more charges of assault and money laundering.
Mubaiwa’s appearance at court was associated with dramatic events, which include being brought to court in an ambulance and being denied the opportunity to seek treatment abroad, but Chiwenga’s name was not isolated in public criticism of her predicaments.
Chiwenga, as the Minister of Health and Child Care has also been cited as a respondent in several cases before the courts in which the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZiNA) sought reprieve against its employer on calls for better wages and working environments.
In case HC 6479/20, for example, which is pending at the High Court, the applicant ZiNA, represented by its president Enock Dongo wants the flexi-working condition, where nurses work 40 hours in three days, maintained.
But the respondents, Chiwenga, the Health Service Board and Jasper Chimedza who is the Health ministry permanent secretary want the arrangement cancelled so that all nurses work the same 40 hours in seven days.
Over 1 000 nurses have been struck off the government payroll for defying a government directive to resume normal working hours, according to papers filed at the High Court.
In late March, another notable heavyweight, Vice President Kembo Mohadi made headlines in the media after losing his bid to have his ex-wife Tambudzani pay him over $40 000 in compensation after failing to take care of her share of cattle awarded to her following their divorce.
Mohadi had filed an application at the High Court, arguing that he was incurring expenses in taking care of Tambudzani’s cattle at his farm in Beitbridge.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Ziyambi Ziyambi is also another high profile person whose marital disputes got into the public domain after he filed for a divorce.
Ziyambi’s estranged wife, Florence, accused the Cabinet minister of engaging in an extra-marital relationship with an official from the Sheriff’s office, whom she said was allegedly being used by Ziyambi to falsify information on some papers in the couple’s divorce matter.
Former vice-president Phelekezela Mphoko was also a popular figure at the court but his trial for ordering the release of two nabbed Zinara officials was held in camera following a successful application by the State to have the public and press blocked from attending the proceedings.
State prosecutors argued that Mphoko’s defence outline had sensitive information which could be detrimental to State security.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his family were also named in several high profile graft cases which were brought before the courts.
The First Family was dragged into the $60 million Covid-19 tender scam involving controversial businessman Delish Nguwaya and his Drax International company and the then Health minister Moyo who was later fired from government over the case.
Mnangagwa was linked to the scandal through his son Collins, who however denied links with the Drax despite pictures of Nguwaya posing for pictures with First Family members at a State function and other places having gone viral on social media.
To clear the air, Zanu PF party spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa, at a press conference held early June, threatened to deal with local journalists and citizens who have linked Mnangagwa to Drax.
Nguwaya, who has since been removed from remand over the case, told Harare magistrate Ngoni Nduna that he was eager to stand trial to clear Mnangagwa’s name.
He denied links to the First Family arguing that it was a malicious accusation by Mnangagwa’s political detractors who wanted to see his demise.
In another case before the courts, suspended Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya and her co-accused who are being charged of attempting to smuggle 6kg of gold to Dubai, dropped the name of First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and her son Collins upon their arrest at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International airport.
This prompted the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to issue a statement dismissing the allegations to clear the first family’s name in the saga.
In the statement, Chief Secretary in the OPC Misheck Sibanda warned offenders whom he said were in the habit of dropping the First Family name to arm twist the law.
“The public and civil servants are advised to report any persons purporting to be acting on behalf of His Excellency, the President Cde E.D Mnangagwa or any other senior public officials to the nearest police stations and take swift actions against such fraudsters,” read Sibanda’s statement.
In another case which took dominance at the courts last year, the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the land, in March 2020 declared Nelson Chamisa’s leadership of the MDC Alliance illegitimate and ordered the party to hold an election to replace him within three months.
Justice Bharat Patel, sitting together with Justices Paddington Garwe and Antonia Guvava, ruled that the process that made Chamisa acting party president after Morgan Tsvangirai died in February 2018 was illegal and therefore nullified the youthful leader’s presidency.
The ruling was handed down following Chamisa’s appeal against a High Court order which had declared Thokozani Khupe the legitimate party leader.
Khupe subsequently took over control of the party headquarters, the Morgan Richard Tsvangiral House, formerly Harvest House, with the help of state security officers. Government has therefore been criticised for meddling in opposition politics and siding with Chamisa’s rivals to weaken the country’s main opposition party.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, the government okayed the MDC-T extraordinary congress and thousands of members gathered at the Harare International Conference Centre to elect a substantive leader, amidst the raging Covid-19 pandemic.
The elections, which ousted interim leader Thokozani Khupe were marred by violence as Khupe challenged Mwonzora’s victory.
During the skirmishes, party supporters did not follow Covid-19 regulations which restricted gatherings to 100 people and no arrests were made.
However, several renowned opposition party activists such as Tendai Biti, who is vice president of the MDC-A, Jim Kunaka of the National Patriotic Front and other political activists have pending matters before the courts for violating lockdown regulations.
Khupe then tested positive for coronavirus three days after the extraordinary congress.
The media also frenzied with coverage of the events surrounding Musa Taj Abdul’s arrest in August 2020, but even more when he was granted bail at the High Court in December.
Abdul is not the first serial armed robber to be incarcerated in the country. There were notorious fugitive murderers and armed robbers Stephen Chidhumo and Edgar Masendeke of the early 2000 who were given a death sentence and many others who have been convicted at the courts.
Abdul was captured in Beitbridge in a movie-style shoot out with the police after having been on the run for 20 years, and was released on a measly $5 000 bail at the High Court. Citizens were not only shocked by the ruling, but feared for their safety, if he was to be released.
Within an hour after judge Justice Benjamin Chikowero handed down his ruling, Abdul’s case had become a national issue of concern and captured the attention of both mainstream and social media, with civil rights groups publicly crying out for justice.
Before day end, Abdul was arrested and detained again by the police on fresh armed robbery charges before he had got the opportunity to deposit the bail.
The prosecutor who consented to his bail, Tapiwa Kasema, was also arrested and charged for criminal abuse of office. He was denied bail for failing to take proper instruction from authorities in the National Prosecuting Authority over the case.