So, Statutory Instrument 101A has been given short-shrift by Mrs Justice Chigumba, and sanity has been restored. One Tendai Biti and and the aptly named Dzimbabwe Chimbga have likely never had a clearer case to argue, so much so that one is reminded of the old song:
haiwa manhungetunge, manhungetungewo….
… so old in fact that I forget how the rest of it goes. Though I suspect it keeps repeating that same line, which is what you do when you have picked something up and you cannot believe your good fortune
But the question must be asked: on what planet did it ever appear that they would get away with such pity, blatant an attempt at usurping constitutional democracy through the avenue of a mischievously epigrammatic Statutory Instrument?
Why would a government that is punctilious in its power hoarding enterprise, meticulous in the art of legalistic survival (see how elections are always held despite the result being determined outside those elections – they only bother so as to give their kleptocracy a veneer of legality) come up with such blatant an own goal?
Well, the answer is suspiciously obvious.
A couple of years ago, Messers Moyo, Kasukuwere and Zhuwawo took up book bags and traipsed off to law school. They of course likely did not get the 14 or 15 points you need at A’ Level to get admitted into the UZ Faculty of Law, no, why bother with qualifications when all you need is a telephone call?
Were it not for the fact that they know that the Law Society will never accept their registration as lawyers unless they can evidence the full four years of study, I would bet they would have done a Grace Marufu and just phoned the degrees office to confirm when their graduation ceremonies would be held, and simply go get their certificates.
And since the day their studies started, we have seen how these gentlemen have taken pains to demonstrate that they are learned (pronounced ler-nerd). Zhuwao will not let a good sentence pass by without adorning it with the kind of verbal ventriloquism that will have you scrambling for a thesaurus, even if that means he ultimately (which is often) ends up saying nothing.
This is how he communicates his ministerial brief, in his empowerment strategy for example: “we need platforms for the creation of creators” through, among others, ‘“Inclusion of the Diaspora, the Disabled and those in conflict with the law” as well as “ affirmative self-representation for active participation and career guidance (mentorship, incubation, acceleration).”
And who can forget that famous week when they were taught this Latin gem: ‘modus vivendi’ at law school and Comrade Muzukuru Zhuwawo spent the entire week declaring that he had no ‘modus vivendi’ with Major Wadyajena, absolutely no modus videndi with Mutsvangwa, promoting one person on Tweeter to ask where all that animus injuraindi was coming from, and it degenerated from there.
Well, perhaps it’s high time we pointed out that we too have no modus vivendi (whatever that means to him) with him, his Sekuru, the wife and their whole lot.
Add to that the Professor! He that thinks he is the repository of all the intelligence that God deemed enough for Zimbabwe. He pontificates his understanding of the law for all to see, parsing simple concepts into convoluted diatribes that he then sells as legal knowledge.
Take for example the day when his boss, Ebagum the First, came back from his Captain Lazarus rescue of Robert Ebagum the Second from another ‘drugs, drink and groping’ arrest in Dubai and proceeded to warn judges to ‘be careful’.
A clear assault on judicial independence, one that anyone could see from a mile. And rightly so. You cannot have an independent judiciary when the President ‘warns’ judges to rule in his favour and his supporters claim, in front of him, to take the law into his own hands. But did the Professor of Intelligence see it? No way.
The president is entitled to his opinion because we have a doctrine of separation of powers, Professor Listen-to-me-for-I-am-Intelligent claimed. Sounded like the words of a fundi that knows what he is on about, and many of his followers on Tweeter must have felt that they couldn’t very well challenge that wisdom. Because according to this doctrine of separation of powers, that the government is made up of there branches (the executive, the legislature and the judiciary) which acts as a checks and balance on each other.
A doctrine is a set of beliefs or teaching, a creed of principle that is widely accepted or at least supportable by evidence. It is a theory, one for which there can be different opinions. There is such a doctrine yes.
Except that the Professor missed one thing: in Zimbabwe the separation of powers is not just a doctrine. It’s the constitutional arrangement. As in, that is the law. Of course, had the professor waited until the last few lectures of this year’s course at Law School, he would know this, as the distinction has not been taught yet. And that distinction is crucial.
His boss might have his opinions about judges, but because of his position in our society, he cannot and should not go about expressing those opinions. He holds the coercive arm of the state. ‘Warning’ judges when you are an old retiree in Singapore is one thing, doing that when you are the President is an impeachable crime, if only we had a parliament.
As the learned Judge put it, “Judicial authority is enshrined in Section 162 and 164 of the Constitution. Courts are independent and must act without fear, favour or prejudice. It is essential to the rule of law that courts operate without interference in a democratic society.”
But, how did we get here?
It is because the government takes legal advice from second year law students that we have some of this rubbish floating around. When I was a second year law student, I thought I knew the law, but 22 years letter, I am in awe of the law. You need to be tempered with reality after graduating before going about using tutorial talking points to run a country.
Kasukuwere spends his time at UZ researching how best to fire elected public officials and keeps wasting our money in this endevaour, because Administrative Law is offered in Third or Fourth Year, and so he has not yet mastered that you cannot have unfettered discretion to fire elected people without due process.
And now that the court has rubbished their pithy attempt to emasculate the constitution, what do the students do? Professor I-am-Intelligent has come up with another gem: those who want to engage in demonstrations ought to pay a security deposit in case they destroy property! I wonder where he learnt that one!
There cannot be any question of people paying to enjoy democratic rights. Human rights accrue to us as Zimbabweans without a property qualification. Odd that the people who claim to have liberated us from a Rhodesia that placed a property qualification to the right to vote now want us to pay for the right to march along Selous Avenue. Odd that a government minister thinks there is nothing sad about asking an impoverished people that their right to express themselves must be paid for first before it is exercised.
Sounds so foolish that it cannot possibly happen? Well, two weeks ago I would have thought that no-one in their right minds would think it possible to take away constitutional rights by the avenue of a Statutory Instrument. A few years back I would have believed that a mother holding a placard at Africa Unity Square was less dangerous that a Minister’s son caught trying to leave the country with $6m in cash, but it is Linda Masarira who languishes in jail while Chinamasa’s son is free.
Why is all this important? Because they will likely not stop. Because this setback through Mrs Justice Chigumba will not make them stop. We have already seen how Professor I-think-for-you-all is arguing that the judgement means we must pay for the right to demonstrate. Now, the law students advising our government are advising Grace Marufu’s Supa-the-in-law to make it an offence to receive a Whatsapp message.
The Computer Crime and Cybercrime Bill, which will soon be law, says that anyone who “(c) receives computer data and is not authorized to receive that computer data, commits an offence and is liable, upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding [amount not fixed] or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding [period not yet fixed], or to both.”
So, anyone thinking of sending me pictures of Robert Ebagum the Second groping women in Dubai, let me tell you now: carry on; I am authorised to receive such images. By the constitution of Zimbabwe!
The thing that Zanu PF has always done is to make laws that legalise the evil they do. From the 1980s, each time the Supreme Court found anything to be unconstitutional, they passed an amendment overruling the Court. That is why the old constitution was amended into meaninglessness. It looks like they are starting again.
And this time, they have lawyers in their midst. Even if those lawyers are still in school.
We should be more angry. Not because some old-men are going to school, but because we are a country run by people that are yet to understand the laws they use to rule our country and who lack the humility to curb their arrogance but are experimenting on our rights.