By Khanyisani Silwane Ncube
A whopping two months after ZANU PF’s Abton Mashayanyika unambiguously, and in broad daylight of July 2022 called for the assassination of the political opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa and his family, Mashayanyika still walks scot-free in Zimbabwe.
In legal terms, at the very least he committed a criminal offence called incitement to commit murder. But it does not end there. Zimbabwe, a country marred by a trail of detestable past electoral violence, is gearing for the watershed general elections in 2023. The inciteful address by Mashayanyika to ZANU PF supporters was captured in video footage which footage has gone viral in the media. Mashayanyika subsequently gloated that he is “too ZANU PF to be arrested” by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP). A criminal complaint was also laid against Mashayanyika not only with the ZRP but with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission as well.
Well, if anybody doubted Mashayanyika’s words that he is untouchable, there walks stark evidence before our own eyes. According to The Standard newspaper edition of 10 September 2022, Mashayanyika had not even been interrogated by the ZRP regarding the impugned utterances. I reiterate, he said, “I’m too ZANU PF to be arrested!” Put simply, by virtue of his membership in ZANU PF, the ruling political party in Zimbabwe, he is above the law, and thus “licensed” to trample upon the Zimbabwean law with impunity. For its own part, the ZANU PF, through its national spokesperson Christopher Mutsvanga, equivocally chided Mashayanyika for being “reckless” but without calling for him to face the full might of the law. Even if he were to be “arrested”, I dare say Mashayanyika would stroll into a courtroom where a magistrate would be gleefully waiting to seamlessly pronounce his bail release, and to sanitize his grave criminal conduct.
In contrast, as recent as 05 September 2022 the Zimbabweans witnessed another incident, captured in video footage which has also gone viral in the media, the self-vaunted professional ZRP arresting two visibly harmless and unarmed civilians for singing songs as they went about their business outside the Bulawayo High Court. It later turned out that the arrestees including a woman named Sindiso Moyo, with her 22-month-old child strapped on her back, were Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) political activists headed to the Bulawayo High Court to file a petition pertaining to the ill-treatment treatment of their incarcerated members. Moyo, her toddler, and the other arrestee Lwazi Khanye were detained overnight at Bulawayo Central Police Station before being released on court bail the following day. It is utterly unconscionable that in their unconstitutional pursuit to silence dissenting voices in Zimbabwe, the authorities, fronted by the partisan ZRP, were brazenly unfazed even by the detention of a toddler. Together with the other detainees, a toddler was unlawfully jailed in the notoriously appalling conditions of a Zimbabwean police cell simply to clamp on political dissent – a right constitutionally guaranteed in a professedly democratic state! If the ZANU PF regime is ghastly ruthless as not to even flinch at jailing a toddler in order to spite the toddler’s mother, then little wonder the MRP 9, MP Job Sikhala, MP Godfrey Sithole, the Nyatsime 13 and many others are still languishing in jail.
If ZANU PF leaders including the former Minister of Health Obadiah Moyo, and the Nembudziya Gokwe legislator Justice Mayor Wadyajena, all accused of looting millions of United States dollars from State coffers and thus stripping millions of poverty-stricken Zimbabweans of basic governmental service delivery, appeared in court donned in fine suits and without ever seeing the inside of a detention cell, then what on earth would justify the jailing of a toddler? But again, remember this is the same regime that unleashed the ruthless Fifth Brigade in the 1980s to rip open with bayonets the wombs of pregnant mothers, and compelled mothers to stomp dead their newborn babies. Ruthlessness is their nickname.
The selective application and/or weaponization of the Zimbabwean law by the law enforcement authorities including the executive, the judiciary and the police is no new elephant in the Zimbabwean house. A reflection on two accounts recently recited to me personally by some acquaintances reignited my telescopic view of the subject. The first account was of an overseas-resident Zimbabwean businessman, besieged by the law enforcement agents for allegedly contravening Zimbabwean tax laws and facing confiscation of his hard-earned assets, who was telephonically tersely advised by a top ZANU PF leader from Matabeleland, “Wena mfana, wozethatha i-card leZANU PF” (Young man, come and get a ZANU PF membership card). The insinuation was that by assuming ZANU PF membership all his business woes would disappear. Well, ZANU PF membership seems to have provided a safety haven for criminally-hounded individuals. Incidentally, I had previously widely read about how the same ZANU PF bigwig named by my contact had dubiously accumulated his massive wealth and had in the early 1980s ditched the ZAPU political party for the ruling ZANU PF in search of “protection” from the tentacles of law. Apparently, he faced a myriad of corruption charges arising from his employment with key parastatals in Zimbabwe, and all the criminal woes have vanished into thin air since he joined ZANU PF. The second account was of a lawyer acquaintance of mine who legally represented an accused person fingered for stock theft by a complainant top judge in Zimbabwe. A Bulawayo magistrate, apparently acting on instructions from the complainant judge, bizarrely truncated the trial proceedings, pronounced the accused person guilty and sentenced him to long-term imprisonment without first putting him on his defence. When pressed by the defence for trampling fair trial procedures, the magistrate laughably charged that the accused person had been overwhelmingly implicated by the state witnesses which obviated the need for him to be put on his defence! Thankfully, the conviction was reversed on appeal.
Indeed, history is replete with irrefutable incidences where ZANU PF has elevated itself above the law. One, in one of her hard-hitting interviews with In Conversation with Trevor veteran Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Beatrice Mthethwa, chronicles her dismay back in the early 1980s when she learnt that some thugs that she had months worked extremely hard to successfully prosecute had spent only a night in prison and pardoned by the ruling ZANU PF government the following day despite having been sentenced to long prison terms for the heinous atrocities that beset Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Two, despite the acquittal of ZAPU cadres Lookout Masuku and Dumiso Dabengwa on trumped-up charges of high treason, the ZANU PF government continued to detain the two icons incommunicado at the Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare. Masuku lamentably died in prison on 5 April 1986, neither convicted of any criminal offence nor facing any formal criminal charges. Dabengwa recounted that Zimbabwe’s current president, then the Minister of State Security, Emmerson Mnangagwa had visited him in prison and offered to immediately engineer his release if only he assumed ZANU PF membership. Three, during the Gukurahundi genocide masterminded by the ZANU PF between 1983 and 1987, in which no less than 20 000 Ndebele speaking civilians were butchered by the ZANU PF-sanctioned Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwean National Army, many Ndebele-speaking civilians were compelled to accept ZANU PF membership cards to avoid being butchered. Four, of the ZAPU properties including farms and farming equipment worth millions of dollars which were illegally seized by ZANU PF in the 1980s have to this date remained withheld by the ZANU PF government. Five, the current ZAPU president Sibangilizwe Nkomo, son of the late ZAPU founder Dr Joshua Nkomo, recently recounted how his numerous applications for State funding in his business and developmental initiatives were rejected because he was “not visible in the ZANU PF structures”.
On the last score, it is crucial to observe that ZANU PF has troublingly dismantled the major differences between independent State institutions, on the one hand, and ZANU PF institutions, on the other hand. The law clearly delineates the crucial differences, yet ZANU PF including Mnangagwa himself has repeatedly bragged, even in some captured video footage which has gone viral, that “…we [ZANU PF] are the police, the army…and we are everything. We determine everything…”. Resultantly, many, if not most, State institutions, have lost their independence and have been effectively hijacked by ZANU PF for its selfish ends. A few instances would suffice in this regard. One, the public broadcaster funded by the tax-payers routinely spews ZANU PF propaganda meant to prop up ZANU PF while maligning the dissenting voices including the political opposition parties and the civil society organizations. Two, people who were resettled on repossessed State land are often and sometimes openly coerced to support ZANU PF lest they be ejected from their homes. Three, ZANU PF doles out State-funded goodies in its election rallies in order to woo the electorate. Four, ZANU PF dishes out State resources including cash and all-terrain motor vehicles to traditional leaders who it compels to illegally campaign and intimidate the voters on its behalf. The Zimbabwean constitution unequivocally obligates traditional leaders including chiefs, headmen and kraalheads to remain apolitical, yet ZANU PF has repeatedly and blatantly breached that constitutional provision. A high court order of 2018 directing Fortune Charumbira, President of the Chiefs Council of Zimbabwe, to retract statements in which he expressed that traditional leaders would support ZANU PF was openly defied by Charumbira. The Local Government Minister who was ordered to institute disciplinary proceedings against Charumbira also disregarded the high court order.
Pretty evidently, ZANU PF has not changed and will not change its modus operandi, namely to handsomely reward or extend favors to those who toe its line while ruthlessly clamping down on its opponents. It will not be inhibited by any law in executing its dirty strategy. Clearly, it has captured many magistrates, judges and other law enforcement authorities to serve as its appendages. But even where it has not succeeded to “remote-control” some in the judiciary it will still barefacedly and expediently defy the law and court orders. ZANU PF decides when to be bound by the uniform laws of the country and when not to be, unlike the rest of us. George Orwell’s literary work Animal Farm succinctly articulated the point: “All animals [Zimbabweans] are equal but some [ZANU PF members] are more equal than others”. While it is pivotal to incessantly lament our plight to stoke sympathy and support for our struggle, this would not suffice on its own and by itself. Additionally, let us also relentlessly mobilize all Zimbabweans across the length and breadth of the world to register to vote and actually vote out our tormentors, ZANU PF. A leopard will never change its spots – ZANU PF, in power for the past 42 years, has overwhelmingly buttressed this point. No amount of electoral rigging by the oppressor would subvert the electorate’s overwhelming resolve for a new political dawn.
Ncube is a South African trained and practising Human Rights lawyer. He recently earned a Master’s Degree in Transnational Legal Practice in the US.