A victory for constitutionalism

On Wednesday the High Court issued a stinging judgment rebuking the police for the manner in which Statutory Instrument 101a of 2016 was promulgated, a ruling respected lawyer, Tendai Biti described as one of the most profound since the signing of the Constitution.

Source: A victory for constitutionalism – NewsDay Zimbabwe September 9, 2016

This came against strong pronouncements about the judiciary from President Robert Mugabe and other State actors, who felt the judiciary was being too liberal in allowing people to demonstrate against the government.

That Justice Priscilla Chigumba was able to issue such a judgment — in light of the foregoing — should be applauded, as the judiciary is showing that it is guided by constitutional principles rather than the whims of a political party.

In a normal democracy, such a ruling would not have been anything to write home about, but in a country such as Zimbabwe, where political interference with the judiciary and threats against judges are normal, Justice Chigumba’s ruling shows she’s a professional and willing to get on with her job, without interference.

One reason why the judiciary can issue such judgments is because of the Constitution, which reinforces judges’ independence and separation of powers.

Many Zimbabweans were not too happy with the constitution-making exercise that culminated with a referendum in 2013.

Some felt that the involvement of political parties meant the integrity of the exercise was compromised and that the final document was a result of compromise rather than a legal process.

Because of this, many are of the view that the charter is inherently flawed and should be amended at the earliest convenience.
While the Constitution is not perfect and there are many things that can be changed about it, Zimbabweans have reason to celebrate the incremental gains it has brought with it thus far.

The right to protest and petition is one such right enshrined in the Bill of Rights, and no matter how much Zanu PF detests this, the courts have emphasised and allowed people to demonstrate.

This might seem like too little and nothing to celebrate about, as the police have routinely crushed demonstrations.

However, the very fact that judges have reprimanded the cops for this action and allowed people to protest, shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and Zimbabweans may feel if they push a little harder and use the courts more, this right will soon be guaranteed and the State would not want to interfere.

We hope this ruling serves to show Zanu PF that the judiciary detests the idea of interference and we applaud Justice Chigumba’s professionalism.


  • comment-avatar
    Munya 6 years ago

    I don’t see it as a victory for the masses but a smokescreen of what is to come. The initial step is to understand the tangled up system of Zanu PF and the parastatals. For 36 years Mugabe has positioned a puppet in every ministry, company, church organisation, or any organisation that pulls a crowd. Therefore this has given him leverage to control the country through repression. As for me whatever Mugabe concede I will be sceptical of his next step. Borrowing words from Brian Kagoro, Zimbabweans and Opposition are so naive to take Mugabe at face value. This “victory” has future repurcations. Without giving Mugabe any merit, however he is a great strategist and this is what lacks in the opposition. Zimbabwe, do not sleep with all your eyes closed.