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Enough is Enough
We have a fundamental right to freedom of expression!
14 October 2004
Judgment is expected to be given in the High Court in Harare on Friday (15th October) in the so-called treason trial of Morgan Tsvangirai, President of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) After a legal process which has lasted for more than 18 months and has often times bordered on the comical and the farcical, Judge President Garwe is finally to pass down his judgment.
But the question is, who is really on trial here ? Is it Morgan Tsvangirai whom the regime have made a clumsy bid to frame on a charge of treason – or is it the Judge who has presided over the case, himself a representative of Robert Mugabe’s new-style partisan judiciary, and who has benefited handsomely from Mugabe’s patronage ? Is it the leader of a popular opposition party – or the system itself which is intolerant of any meaningful opposition to Mugabe’s hegemony ? In the final analysis, is it a party unequivocally committed to the path of non-violence - or a ruling clique who, to maintain themselves in power illegally will resort to whatever degree of violence is necessary ? Who, and what, is on trial ?
The parallels between Morgan Tsvangirai’s trial and the treason trial of Nelson Mandela in Rivonia in 1963-4 are indeed striking. In both cases a true son of Africa was on trial for his life, arraigned by a brutal tyrannical regime representing a privileged minority. In both cases the accused’s real “crime” was, not that he was a danger to the state, but rather that he was a danger to the vested interests of a clique of corrupt politicians who were – and are – resisting peaceful change by every means at their disposal. In both cases a man of the people who stood for true democratic values was being – is being – hounded by those who fear democracy above all else. It is no coincidence then that both accused, Mandela and Tsvangirai, were represented by the same eminent lawyer, George Bizos SC, whose name is synonymous with the struggle for freedom and democracy in Africa.
There is but one significant difference between the man who stood in the dock in the Rivonia trial and the man who will take his place in the dock in the High Court in Harare on Friday. By the time Nelson Mandela was arrested and brought to trial the ANC had adopted a policy of (limited, targeted) violence in opposing the ruthless violence of the state. With the greatest reluctance the ANC had moved from active non-violent resistance to a strategy which included the use of violence. Umkhonto we Sizwe (The Spear of the Nation) had been born. In Tsvangirais’s case he personally, and the party he represents, stands for a resolute policy of non-violence. Despite every provocation and the brutal violence employed against the party, the MDC still stands for non-violent resistance.
Tsvangirai’s commitment to peaceful change is remarkable enough in the context of Zimbabwe’s recent history. It is more remarkable still in the context of the numerous bloody battles that are waged across the length and breadth of the African continent, either for justifiable or non-justifiable ends. And therefore this man deserves our whole-hearted support and our prayers, as much for the noble principles he represents as for his obvious innocence of the ridiculous charges brought against him.
For Zimbabwe’s sake let us pray that the presiding Judge has enough integrity and judicial independence on this occasion at least, to do the decent thing and acquit him of all charges. But irrespective of the judgment handed down on Friday this man, Morgan Tsvangirai, deserves the nation’s respect and our support as a champion of freedom and democracy – achieved by non-violent means. For if Tsvangirai is convicted and the ZANU PF regime decides to make a martyr of him make no mistake, Zimbabwe will have moved a decisive step closer to armed conflict – a scenario too terrible to contemplate.