In the past week, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) and Women and Law in Southern Africa – Zimbabwe (WLSA) have noted with increased concern, allegations of sexual misconduct against various public officials on mainstream and social media platforms.
Most notably, Vice President, Kembo Mohadi has in the past few days faced allegations of engaging in sexual intercourse with a married subordinate, in addition to purportedly engaging in sexual trysts at his government office. In defence of the Vice President, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana took to his social media platforms to assert that the allegations against the Vice President were spurred by insecure men and people who failed to mind the business of two consenting adults.
In Bulawayo, High Court judge, Justice Mabhikwa, has been embroiled in an embarrassing sex scandal that involves an affair with a young subordinate. The young lady allegedly leaked nude images of the judge and sexually explicit WhatsApp messages from his phone to family, friends and professional colleagues after she became suspicious that he was involved in an affair with another lady.
The Forum and WLSA are deeply troubled with the allegations as they involve engagements of a sexual nature by persons in positions of power with subordinate personnel. The allegations evidently implicate a culture of abuse of office and power by public officials for sexual advantage. Public officials are held to the highest standard of professional ethics and conduct which they are obliged to promote and maintain. This is premised on the fact that public officials carry out their duties on a premise of public trust and are vested with power that cannot be abused for personal gain or sexual exploitation.
In view of this, the remarks by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana, on his social media platforms are particularly unsettling as they uphold a culture that is inconsistent with the legal, moral and ethical code that binds public officials. The act of engaging a subordinate for sexual benefit directly flies in the face of the tenets upon which public officials exercise their mandate and the position of power that they are imbued with.
The Forum and WLSA join all progressive Zimbabweans and calls for the immediate investigation into the alleged acts of misconduct and a call to account. A failure to make a stand and ensure that there is accountability would be to severely undermine the fundamental values and principles that public officials stand upon, and that which the public draws on for confidence in its government.