Gift Phiri 8 January 2018
HARARE – In the expanding anti-corruption crackdown on the country’s
political elite, several erstwhile senior ruling party members have been
arraigned in the purge being pursued by new President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
They face allegations of money laundering, bribery, extortion and
exploiting public office for personal gain.
All those held are individuals with links to the vanquished Generation 40
faction of the ruling party, which wanted avaricious former first lady
Grace Mugabe to succeed her doddering 93-year-old husband Robert Mugabe,
whose government was toppled in a military intervention.
These under-fire G40 members have retained lawyers aligned to opposition
parties as their lead counsel to argue their corruption cases in court.
Now, there is controversy whether lawyers aligned to the MDC Alliance –
which is campaigning on a platform of punishment for alleged Zanu PF
thieves – can mount defence as to why the same alleged thieves should not
go to jail.
Several members of the MDC Alliance, who are lawyers, are representing
under-fire Zanu PF officials – from Job Sikhala who has been retained as
Walter Mzembi’s lead counsel, Welshman Ncube who is representing former
VP Phelekezela Mpoko, Advocate Kucaca Phulu who is representing former
minister Makhosini Hlongwane and many others.
These attorneys are facing withering pressure from opposition supporters
who disapprove of the representation of their political opponents ahead of
a key general election mid-year.
Some are even questioning the lawyers’ loyalty to the opposition and some
have lost confidence in their overall judgment as a result. Others allege
they are doing it purely for the money and are conflicted.
But then a lawyer’s representation of a client does not constitute an
endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or
A sense of justice and professional responsibility is all that a lawyer
considers in deciding whether to take on a case or not.
In the context of the factional capture of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption
Commission (Zacc) to settle political scores, it is clear politics has
overthrown the law, and what we are witnessing are political fights
camouflaged as fights against corruption, where huge criminals hound
little ones using State infrastructure. As a result, lawyers linked to the
opposition with strong political convictions are taking a stand.
It seems the prosecuting authority and the motivation to prosecute has
become political and factional, with apparent selective application of the
law only targeting the G40 cabal.
Yet, both accusers and the accused are tainted by corruption. By the way,
politics is not shielded from dictates of conscience and from the law.
These ongoing arrests are purely political and only finding expression at
Those fighting the ruling regime like the MDC Alliance have an ethical and
legal obligation to scuttle such machinations with all the vigour they
Of course, the lawyers linked to the opposition do not implicitly or
explicitly endorse their Zanu PF clients’ actions or beliefs by
establishing a defence, but it seems there are others who feel that
representation is unfortunately being perceived as promoting graft by the
It is trite to note that it is not permissible for an attorney to assert a
discriminatory agenda as grounds that he or she is unable to advocate
zealously for a client – the so-called cab-rank rule.
The law deals with the same sort of questions as politics: what makes a
just society; the balance between liberty and security, and so on.
Lawyers are trained to take two sides and here they have chosen to
challenge the factional capture of Zacc to settle political scores and the
selective application of the law.
The negative public reaction to the representation of Zanu PF officials by
opposition-linked lawyers means the Law Society of Zimbabwe has not done
enough in educating the public about the constitutional right to
representation guaranteed to all.