Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum director Musa Kika says everyone has a duty to ensure the enforcement of the constitution.
Kika (MK), who last month launched a successful High Court application challenging the renewal of Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s term of office by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor, that he was proud of the achievements of his team that handled the case.
Kika said the Malaba case demonstrated the importance of public interest litigation in protecting the constitution. Below are excerpts from the interview.
TN: Dr Musa Kika, welcome to In Conversation with Trevor. We have finally done it. We have been wanting to do this now for the past four weeks, cancelling and so forth until you finally became famous before I could talk to you, hahaha.
MK: It is very funny Trevor, we were meant to do this way before all this that has happened, but thank you so much for having me, I am extremely honoured.
TN: Fantastic. So Musa you turned 31 years in April?
TN: I always say I love talking to young minds, because the future of this country is in the hands of young people, particularly your generation. You hold a PhD in Public Law from the University of Cape Town. A Masters of Laws from Harvard Law School. A Bachelor of Laws Summa Cum Laude. Did I pronounce it well?
MK: That’s correct.
TN: Right. So that is from the University of KwaZulu Natal. You have a certificate in Advanced Human Rights from the Centre of Human Rights at the University of Pretoria and you have a certificate in National Dialogue and Peace Mediation from the Swiss Peace and the University of Basel in Switzerland. The question is why law and human rights?
MK: I do not see myself Trevor having done any other career. I remember when I was applying for my university degree, the undergrad. The form required me to put three options, and number one was bachelor of Laws and number two for me was Bachelor of Laws and number three was Bachelor of Laws.
I had made up my mind that if they did not give me the degree, I was not going to go to that university and make an alternative plan. I really wanted to do law. I had this image of the law, which I still hold today — of law being a tool that the downtrodden can use to confront naked power.
I had this image of the law being a tool that can take people out of oppression entirely.
I had very early in my high school days been exposed to notions of justice and tyranny. I participated in social clubs at schools like the Child Law Forum club. There was also a human rights club. At one of the schools I actually formed the human rights club.
TN: Which school was that?
MK: That was at St Johns Emerald Hill, the mission school.
So you know in those social clubs at schools we interacted a lot with issues to do with human rights, civic awareness, but also it is because of the material we were interacting with in school.
My favourite African author is Chinua Achebe. Material like Anthills of the Savannah, which was actually a set book in our A’Level in which he (Chinua Achebe) was speaking about the fictional Kangan State and to me Kangan was Zimbabwe because of exactly what was transpiring here. So, it is those notions of tyranny and injustice that led me into wanting to study law.
I was also following a lot what was happening on the political scene, so I believed I had an above-average appreciation of what was happening politically. Those days I was also in the Junior Parliament and I was actually also the junior minister of Transport and Communications. So those kinds of platforms made me a bit more aware, I think, than other children of what was transpiring.
Of course, I then went to law school, started first year and then I later learned that the law is actually a double-edged sword, it can be used to build, it can be used to destroy, it can be used to build justice, it can be used to subvert justice. Apartheid was a legal system, democracy is a legal system. It is just a matter of you choosing, which side you want to be of the law.
I am glad I am still on the side that I went into law school in.
TN: I hear you. Already at high school the law already has a hold on you. Is there a role model that you saw prior to going to university that made you say law is the way to go?
MK: None in my family, because I am actually the first in my family to attain a university qualification. I looked up a lot to those prominent lawyers of the day, who were waging the human rights struggle and some of them, most of them in fact we have them today. People like Madame Beatrice Mtetwa. People like Alec Muchadehama.
I feel extremely privileged that today I interact and work with these people in various platforms.
These are actually the individuals that I would read a lot about, that I would see. They portrayed to me the kind of professional that I wanted to be, in the human rights field.
TN: We talked about law and human rights. Why in particular human rights? Where does it come from for you?
MK: For me human rights is that branch of law that allows human beings to flourish. It allows us to be equal notwithstanding the political and the social or economic classes we may be coming from. It allows us all a chance to dream, it allows us all a chance to have a place under the Zimbabwean sun.
Also human rights, particularly because when I was interacting with these political developments of the day and I was also interacting with this material that I was reading that I spoke of earlier, issues of oppression were a key theme across the board, and to me human rights law was and remains a tool to get people out of oppression.
TN: You have said that law is a double-edged sword? You have had a hectic week or so involved at a very high level with the challenge for the extension of Chief Justice Malaba’s term. I know we cannot get into the nitty-gritties of that?
TN: What has it been like for you? I suspect that it has been an emotionally stressing time and everything else? Talk to us about what this challenge has meant for you?
MK: Trevor, I am extremely proud that we did this, that I did this with the team that I am working with because to me that is how I imagined myself using the law. To do away with illegalities, to do away with anti-people and unconstitutional circumstances. To me this is exactly what I wanted to do with my law degree and this is exactly what I am doing. This is something that I feel every other citizen, who cares about this nation and where it is going should be doing. This is our country, we own it, we are the stockholders.
This constitution is ours, we wrote it, so we have the duty to ensure that we see to the enforcement of this constitution.
They say the turn of vigilance is the prize for freedom, and this is exactly what we are facing right now.
It is essentially driving ideals to do with respect for the rule of law, respect for the people who put together this law, respect for judicial independence.
Ultimately that is how we can move forward as a democracy. This document, the constitution, came about after decades of struggle.
Some people died, Trevor, fighting for a new democratic constitution.
Our people went out, 93% to 94% of them, who participated in that referendum in March 2013 and voted in favour.
It will be really a sad day if we see unconstitutional things happening and we simply ignore. So it is a proud moment for me that we have been able to do this.
TN: Has it been stressful?
MK: Well it comes with its own pressures. I have to say this, you know fighting for constitutionalism and human rights is supposed to be an everyday thing that everyone does, but most people who contacted me when this case was filed or even after the ruling were saying please be safe or are you safe?
To me that said something, fighting for human rights and constitutionalism should not be a health or a life hazard, but unfortunately it has appeared to be like that in this country which is one big problem in itself that we ought to address.
Yes, of course it comes with a lot of pressures, it comes with a lot of demands.
It also gave a lot of hope to people, Trevor. People felt so we are actually able to do this and we can actually get a result.
It is quite unusual in our society, which is very unfortunate, but people were sort of energised, people wanted to know more about what were these amendments to the constitution about. What does the constitution say? What is going wrong here? So, for me that is one of the reasons why public interest litigation is important. It ignites interest among the people to know their constitution and to be actual partakers of the processes unfolding in society.
There is also, like I said, an expectation for more, but that is when we then need everyone to come on board and contribute with whatever little contribution they can make.
We fight from the legal side of things because that is how we have been taught, that’s what we are taught.
We use the law the best way we know how, but we also require other voices to also come in and support the best way they know how.
- “In Conversation with Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor. Please get your free YouTube subscription to this channel. The conversations are sponsored by Titan Law.