Politicians Mustn’t Get Away With Slandering Judges
Echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
The habit of the main opposition MDC of getting itself into a mess and then some rabid elements in the party blaming everyone —from the government to the courts — except themselves has to stop.
After the High Court this week ruled that Nelson Chamisa’s appointment as MDC president was unconstitutional, all sorts of angry accusations erupted, with the usual suspects alleging that High Court judge Justice Edith Mushore was doing the Zanu PF government’s bidding to undermine the MDC, whereas the decision by the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai (may his soul rest in peace) was the genesis of most of these leadership rows rocking the party even now. Little — or nothing — was externally engineered despite some paranoid conspiracy theorists in the MDC pointing fingers at party co-deputy president Elias Mudzuri, whose appointment was also declared invalid by Justice Mushore, and secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora.
This writer pointed out after Tsvangirai’s death in February 2018, when a picture was published showing Chamisa being lifted by what appeared to be party fanatics, through a hole which had been drilled at the building housing the party headquarters, that this was not the best way for Chamisa to announce his entry.
But I was roundly condemned and even verbally abused for stating that this undignified over-excitedness and overhastiness depicted in that picture would leave them in a mess if not resolved procedurally and civilly. Not that I hold any brief for Chamisa, but I wrote then: “The irony of it all is that Chamisa could have easily won without the ugly violence that has ensued.”
Maybe it’s that Chamisa cannot handle the adulation and intense focus on him. Up to now, no lessons have been learnt because I do not see any let-up in this over-excitedness and overhastiness, and one Sinyo in an SMS, agrees with me: “MDC leader Nelson Chamisa and ZCTU president Peter Mutasa should be careful not to promise easy solutions to complicated situations just in order for populism. To say workers should be paid in United States dollars is far-fetched and unreal. Teachers alone will need no less than US$7,5 million a month” (NewsDay May 4, 2019).
Indeed, there are no quick and easy fixes to the economy in the same way that it has been proved that there are no shortcuts to leadership — including MDC leadership.
Back to this week’s High Court judgment, reacting in his typical over-the-top and way-off-the-mark fashion, MDC Alliance (MDC-A) spokeperson Jacob Mafume fumed (pun not intended): “The choice of leaders of any political party, the world over, is the sole preserve of the members of that party. It can never be a judicial process.
Equally, the actions, activities and programmes of a political party, being a voluntary organisation, whose existence is protected by the Constitution, is the sole preserve of the members that party.”
But, as fellow Zimbabwean Itayi Garande pointed out, that is not the end of the story, it’s oversimplifying matters. Garande elucidated: “Yes, these statements are true, but which political party is Mafume referring to? He refers to the ‘MDC’ causing further confusion. MDC belongs to Welshman Ncube.
Interestingly, Mafume is not referring to the MDC Alliance in his response, nor the MDC-T. The party in question is MDC-T. MDC-A can hold a congress as it is a separate political party. It has that right, but that congress does not make it a legitimate successor of the MDC-T, which the court has ruled as under Thokozani Khupe as of 2004. That is the crux of the matter.”
But Mafume contrives to fume and blame it on “the machinations and strategies being deployed by the Mnangagwa administration to destabilise and destroy the people’s project”, questioning the integrity of Justice Mushore.
It was the same when they went to the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) last year alleging that President Emmerson Mnangagwa had rigged the elections without any substantive evidence, but mere bald allegations, as Chief Justice Luke Malaba put it.
The ConCourt indulged them for filing late, but it was too much to expect the court to accept the half-baked evidence of rigging they produced.
Observed fellow Zimbabwean Prosper Banda: “Zimbabwe has to lament the politicisation of our justice system. If a decision does not please one political party, it is quickly labelled as a political decision. It is sad that even renowned lawyers like Tendai Biti rush to Twitter and wilfully mislead the the public. Firstly, the courts must never interfere in the internal poltics of a political party or any club, unless there is flagrant disregard of the law. if there is flagrant disregard of your own constituion, the court will and has the right to order you to follow your own constitution…”
Even the matter of the constitution and membership of my beloved Dynamos Football Club has been dealt with at the High Court, so where is this noise coming from?
After they duly lost the case in the ConCourt, they went into their default mode of taking it out on Chief Justice Malaba and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba.
A case in point is that of MDC Alliance secretary for local government Sesel Zvidzai, who is more foul-mouthed than United States President Donald Trump.
He spewed this bile against Justice Chigumba last year without providing any shred of evidence of impropriety against her:
“There are lots of good women, we refer to them as omama, vana mai (mothers) etc and there are whores too, mahure, amahule, ladies of the night — Chigumba is one of those bad ones.”
No wonder the incisive Banda has unpacked this most worrying trend: “But this is not simply a case of the court thrusting itself into politics. It is a case of political parties demonising the courts even if there is no reason to.”
Indeed, officers of the court and other State institutions need to be protected from such wanton slander and defamation spewed by the likes of Mafume and Zvidzai.