IN the midst of gloom and despair there is always a glimmer of hope. Zimbabwe’s judiciary must be applauded for standing firm to enforce the rights of citizens in the face of great adversity and threats from a paranoid executive.
Source: Hats off to judiciary – NewsDay Zimbabwe August 27, 2016
While belligerent Cabinet ministers in the security cluster led by Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo late yesterday sought to instil a sense of fear in citizens and brand a perfectly legitimate request for a peaceful demonstration against an uneven electoral playfield, High Court judge Justice Hlekani Mwayera mastered enough courage to rule against President Robert Mugabe’s increasingly rattled regime.
The principle of separation of powers and the rights of citizens to petition, protest and demonstrate are sacrosanct and speak to the core of democratic and people-centered governance.
Zimbabwe’s Constitution is clear, that citizens have a right to protest, but the country’s police under Chombo and successive ministers before him have acted with impunity, arrogating themselves the position of some super authority that can grant or refuse that right.
Even so, with the courts yet to rule on whether the demonstration could proceed, Chombo had already labelled it as “illegal”. With pictures and videos abound of police brutality, Chombo who has in the past few weeks turned into Zimbabwe’s version of comical Ali, had the temerity to ask for evidence of such actions by security forces.
It is the height of impudence and arrogance for a visibly cornered establishment that is now unsure of how to proceed. The Mugabe-led government should be reminded that it has a mandate to ensure that the rights of every Zimbabwean including those who are protesting against it are respected.
Chombo’s prejudicial and threatening statements only serve to inflame an already volatile situation. Instead, Mugabe and his government must find better ways of policing and dealing with protesters rather than using brute force or violence as well as responding to the demands of the population they claim to serve.
Violence begets violence and as was the case when the nationalists were fighting against colonialism, the State’s reaction determines how those demanding particular actions from government also react.
Instead of addressing the issues at hand, particularly the chronic economic and political problems at home, Mugabe has shown nothing, but total disdain for the people he purports to represent by embarking on another jaunt that will take him to Kenya and Swaziland within the next four days.
Mugabe left the country for the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) to be hosted by Kenya in Nairobi and will also attend a Sadc summit beginning Tuesday in Mbabane, the Swaziland capital.
It, therefore, brings warmth to realise that the country’s judiciary can still draw a line in the sand to make sure the rights of citizens are guaranteed. Mwayera and others in her profession should be applauded for staring dictatorship in the face and telling Mugabe “you can’t trample on the Constitution while we watch”.
It is this flicker of light that our endangered freedom cries and should at all costs be supported and nurtured.