Category Archives: Democracy

My love letter to the Zimbabwean Judiciary


Dearest esteemed colleagues, honourable members of ‘THE’ noble profession, Judges of our revered Courts, I write this intimate missive to you -one lawyer to another. You have an onerous task; TO CHANGE SOCIETY FOR THE BETTER. In fulfilling that role you also face the challenge of trying to balance the interests of two of the most difficult and at times irrational groupings in our society, politicians and the citizenry.

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

My lordships and ladyships; 120 years ago, on 9 February 1893, an American lawyer, politician and statesman who was also a Democrat presidential nominee 3 times-William Jennings Bryan said something profound, that I believe many of you-being widely read-have come across. He said, “Next to the Ministry [preaching the word of God], I know of no more noble profession than the law. The object aimed at is justice, equal and exact, and if it does not reach that end at once it is because the stream is diverted by selfishness or checked by ignorance. Its principles ennoble [lend greater dignity or nobility of character] and its practice elevates.”

Sirs and madames; the wisdom in this statement remains relevant today as it was then. For what are we as lawyers, if we do not seek to see justice delivered? Can we call ourselves agents of change and justice if our work is driven by self-gain and selfishness? Do we retain our dignity and the dignity of our profession when we display blatant bias, towards things that trash justice and all its principles?

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Monsieur/madame le juge, my requests are few and simple:-

Make decisions on merit not on political bias

Have a quiet dignified presence.

If the system is rotten, be the maverick within-not just any maverick but one for justice; independent, impartial, accountable. As Martin Luther King Jnr said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” You are entrusted with ensuring that the arc bends towards what is right, fair and true-please do not throw that trust to the dogs.

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

My Lord and Ladies, I know you need to eat, but if you must eat won’t you have hard-earned and honestly attained worms than ill-begotten pudding? I assure you, for eating the worms-history will judge you kindly for your sacrifice. Don’t you think that your integrity and leaving behind a legacy of fairness and balance is much more honourable than serving your immediate needs?

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Lordships and Ladyships, a wise someone once said “ The judge who gives the right judgement while appearing not to do so will be thrice blessed in heaven, while on earth will not be so.” Is this something that you might want to guide you in making your decisions?

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Resepectfully, I know you are human beings before you are judges.  I know you experience fear; fear of losing your jobs, fear of reprisals, fear of the unknown.  Do not let fear expropriate your dignity. Rather as Thomas Pain so aptly put it, there is character in strength and choosing to do what is right, above what is convenient. He said, “I love the man that can smile in trouble,  that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.“

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Humbly, when I ask you for impartiality, I am NOT saying do not come to the Bench with any ideas. The truth and reality of it is that you already have them; for or against women, gays, lesbians, prisoners, rapists, murderers, politics, political parties, ideologies and struggles. So bring your ideas to the Bench, but do not let these cloud your judgement in delivering justice. If anything, acknowledge you have these ideas in your head already but challenge them or affirm them with thorough, well-reasoned, value-based, critical thinking entrenched in the two principles of fairness and justice.

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Your honour, it begins with you to serve justice and yes, your contribution as an individual even if no one else will back you, does matter. Ask Justice Koome of Kenya how she did it. She had a one (wo)man show, where she observed the right and freedom of all individuals from unlawful detention. And so she cleared all cases in the courts of individuals who had been arrested for “insulting the President.” Guess what, even after making these “unwelcome” decisions, which possibly could have lost her a job and income, she remains a judge today.

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Honourable judges, I believe you know the law is an unfinished publication, you continue reading as each chapter unfolds right in front of you. I have come across these words and would like you to hear them too. They were spoken by Professor John Dugard, a South African scholar of great repute in his criticism of South African judges under apartheid South Africa. He said “The judge is not a mere automaton who declares the law…he has a wide range of options open to him in fact-finding, in the interpretation of statutes, in the review of administrative action, in the application of precedent and in the selection of Roman-Dutch authority; and. . . in choosing between conflicting and contradictory principles of statutory interpretation, precedent and Roman-Dutch authority, the judge may legitimately select those principles, precedents or authorities from our liberal Roman Dutch heritage which best advance equality and liberty.” So think, think and think again before you hand down your decision. Think in favour of equality and liberty. Think in favour of fairness and justice.

 I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

My Lords and Ladies, do not be afraid of labelling, if you are doing a good job, your record will speak for itself. As Justice Yvonne Mogkoro, former Judge of the South African Constitutional Court once said, “The role of a judge is not to be popular but to deliver justice, undiluted, unpolluted.” Your maturity comes with fearlessness and boldness. Do not cower from justice-deliver justice.

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Oh my Lordships and Ladyships, humbly I urge, be careful in your speech, your utterances, your verdicts and your reasoning. You will be charged for it-maybe not in one of your courts of law-but in our collective memory as a nation. Jackie Assimwe, a friend and human rights defender from Uganda once said, “Once a judiciary is compromised, then the justice it delivers is tainted.” Do not let us doubt the efficacy of your footprints. Rather, regenerate in our minds the integrity and wisdom of the Bench.

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

In humility and gratitude, I salute those of you who were suspended for rightly releasing, wrongfully arrested and detained fellow lawyers and human rights defenders.

I salute those of you who defend the rights of the defenceless, in particular prisoners as you ensure their right to fair trial and dignified existence while incarcerated.

I salute those of you who uphold fundamental freedoms, of speech, expression, association, assembly and of the press.

I salute those of you who recognise that divergent views within any society are patriotic as they foster constructive discourse.

I salute those of you who refuse to be “cadrerised”-after all your greatest strength lies in independent thought and expression.

May I invite you all to make these wise words by Mahatma Ghandi your daily mantra in executing your noble duty:

“Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:

I shall not fear anyone on Earth.

I shall fear only God.

I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.

I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.

I shall conquer untruth by truth.

And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.”

My final humble request: I ask you not to favour me or either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.


Day under the Egyptian Sun


As I write this piece, the Egyptian army is claiming to have ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Morsi insists he is still president and that he is open to negotiations. He had only been in power since 30 June 2012, following what has been known as Egypt’s first ‘democratic’ election.

Everything about this situation defies all the obvious definitions we have come to know as questions are buzzing around; was the ousting of Morsi a revolution or a coup or… Who knows???

Democratic election? Was the election that led to President Morsi’s election democratic? Many of the anti-Morsi protestors will tell you it was not. The US government will say it was. What would make the election democratic or not?

Was it competitive; did all parties and candidates enjoy fundamental freedoms of speech, assembly, and movement? Did they have the necessary to voice their criticisms of the government openly? Did they manage to bring their alternative policies and candidates to the electorate?

Was it periodic, oh well since this was the first such election that really doesn’t count does it.

Was it inclusive; did all eligible and willing voters vote? Were any religious, racial or ethnic minorities excluded? Were women included? Were all interest groups included?

Was it definitive; was a leadership of the government chosen? Of course, there would not have been a President Morsi had that not happened.

So then was the election democratic: I don’t know…

Others argue these events oust a “legitimately elected leader.” Who confers legitimacy on a leader? Who elects a president?  Is it not the people, the same people who have decided that he is not living up to expectations and have decided to remove him? If these same people with the right to choose a President were now describing him as “a political despot who was peddling religious fundamentalism to consolidate his power base,” did he still remain “legitimate?”

Oh but wait, there is a Constitution. Constitutionalism demands that the President should be removed through a democratic election but neither through a mass protest nor through the solicitation of the military’s strength. In terms of the law he obviously remained legitimate because he could only be legitimately removed through another election , but politically was he still legitimate? I don’t know that either…

To throw in another spanner, was the Constitution itself a legitimate document? Is it legitimate when citizens are trashing its provisions and crying foul about the process through which it came into being? Is it legitimate when citizens are crying foul about its provisions and crying foul about the implementation of some of its provisions? Is that Constitution binding or do the people have a right to demand a re-write of the Constitution-for the people, by the people, of the people? Again, I don’t know…

Is this a coup? The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines a coup as “a sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group, the chief prerequisite of which is control of all or part of the armed forces, the police, and other military elements.” Was it sudden-yes. Was it violent-well four people died and a whole lot more injured.  Was it illegal-in terms of the constitution-yes. Did it result in the seizure of power from a government – yes. So was it a coup-hey, I don’t know…

Is this a revolution? Again the Encyclopaedia Britannica says a revolution occurs when “large numbers of people working for basic social, economic, and political change organise and execute a major, sudden alteration in government.”  Were there large numbers in Tahrir-the images speak for themselves. Were they asking for social-economic change- bread, butter and bedding issues do sound economic and social to me. Were they asking for political change- definitely, against arbitrary arrests and other rights violations.

Late on 3 July, a number of civics in Egypt including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies described the mass uprising as “tantamount to a genuine popular referendum by which the majority of Egyptians rejected all policies seeking to undermine rights and liberties in the name of empowering a single political faction to monopolise state institutions, undermine the rule of law and judicial bodies, disregard court orders, harass and prosecute political opponents, and restrict the media and freedom of opinion and expression.”

Many are giving these events many terms; counter-revolution, popular uprising, invited coup, popular coup, a coup within a revolution, a revolutionary coup.  What it all adds up to is that there is nothing defined under the Egyptian sun.


The Harassment of Justice: A tale of a tale


A couple of months ago, I published “The Story of Beatrice Mtetwa-A Red Herring’ in which I posed a number of theories pertaining to Beatrice’s arrest. One of them was that Beatrice’s arrest was an intimidation tactic by state agents of all citizens who would wish to take the same stand as Beatrice; i.e. the stand to fight against any injustice visited upon individuals who are fighting for human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens. I emphasised that Beatrice’s persecution and vilification was meant as an example calculated to ensure that sufficient fear was planted in all of us so that whoever doesn’t toe the correct political line, will face the full wrath of those in power, under the guise of the law.

This theory seems the most relevant given the continued onslaught that the state has launched against Beatrice. This blog however seeks not to over-analyse the reasons behind the onslaught but rather to give an update of how this case has proceeded.

  •  17 March: Beatrice Mtetwa was arrested in Avondale. On arrest she was charged with obstructing or defeating the course of justice in contravention of Section 184 (1) (g) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
  • 18 March: at exactly 0151 a.m.  High Court Judge Charles Hungwe, from his home, ordered Beatrice’s immediate release. He argued that there was no basis for her continued detention since the allegations laid against Beatrice did not reveal a criminal offence.
  • 18 March: around 0230 a.m. Beatrice’s lawyers served Justice Hungwe’s order on officers at Rhodesville police station. The police officers refused to release Beatrice.
  • 18 March: Beatrice’s lawyers lodged an application in the High Court stating that the refusal by the police to enforce Justice Hungwe’s order was in contempt of court.
  • 18 March: Beatrice was told that she would appear in court on 19 March and based on this information her lawyers withdrew their application.
  • 18 March: Justice Hlatshwayo dealt with the withdrawn application and dismissed it with no reasons given.
  • 19 March: Beatrice appeared before Magistrate, Marehwanazvo Gofa, at Rotten Row Magistrates Court represented by Advocate Thabani Mpofu to determine her remand conditions. Advocate Mpofu argued that this hearing should not have been done in the Magistrates Court since an order of the High Court a more superior court had already granted Beatrice’s release.
  • 19 March: Advocate Mpofu argued that Beatrice had not been treated well in police custody because in the dead of the night, on 18 March two male police officers entered Beatrice’s detention cell at Rhodesville Police Station and attempted to uncover her from her blankets. Beatrice feared that she might be raped.  Further, she had not been allowed to bath since her arrest.
  • 19 March: the Magistrate ruled that the case was rightly before the Magistrates Court because the issue of her placement on remand was separate from the issue of her detention in police custody.
  • 19 March: Beatrice’s lawyers proceeded to request that she be remanded out of custody and gave reasons why she should be granted bail including that she is a highly reputable and established lawyer, with no criminal record.
  • 19 March: the Prosecution requested an adjournment to respond to Beatrice’s lawyers’ argument and the Magistrate adjourned the case to 20 March 2013.
  • 20 March: the State argued that Beatrice should not be granted bail because the charges she was facing were very serious, that she would likely abscond because she had a foreign passport, or that she would interfere with investigations if released and that her release would set a dangerous precedent. “Anarchy would prevail”, they argued.
  • 20 March: Magistrate Gofa bought into the prosecutor’s argument and dismissed Beatrice’s bail application and remanded her in custody to 3 April.
  • 21 March: Beatrice’s lawyers appealed this decision in High Court.
  • 22 March: Justice Joseph Musakwa heard the appeal.
  • 22 March: State requested adjournment of the appeal to ‘allow time to submit their response.’ Justice Musakwa agreed to the adjournment and set down the appeal hearing for 25 March.
  • 25 March: Justice Musakwa granted Beatrice $500 bail setting aside the Magistrate’s on the basis that Beatrice’s reputation was too great to be ignored and that the police had not shown how much of the investigation was left to be “interfered with.”
  • 3 April: Beatrice appeared before Donald Ndirowei for a routine remand hearing. Magistrate Ndirowei postponed the matter to 8 April to allow the State to determine a trial date and her lawyers to challenge her being remanded.
  • 5 April: the prosecution served Beatrice with papers setting out their case against her.  The prosecutors added fresh allegations against Beatrice.  The fresh allegations stated that on top of saying “Stop whatever you are doing, it’s unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic,” as was the case in the initial charge, Beatrice had also said “You confused cockroaches”  “Murimbwa dzaMugabe” i.e. “You are Mugabe’s dogs” and that she had conducted herself in an ‘indecent’ manner when she threatened to relieve herself in a public place.The case named nine witnesses set to testify. These were:
  • Chief Superintendent-Luckson Mukazhi
  • Detective Assistant Inspector-Wilfred Chibage
  • Detective Constable-Ngatirwe Mamizi
  • Detective Sergeant-Taizivei Tembo
  • Assistant Inspector-Thabani Nkomo
  • Chido Chawanikwa-a police officer
  • Stembiwe Vera-a caretaker at Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s research and development office
  • Brian Mutusva-a computer technician in the Prime Minister’s Office and
  • Zororai Mudariki-a driver.
  • 8 April: Beatrice appeared in the magistrates’ court. The state’s case was led by Tawanda Zvekare, Acting Director of Public Prosecutions in the Attorney General’s Office, assisted by Michael Mugabe, a chief law officer.
  • 8 April: Beatrice was remanded on bail and the case was adjourned to 27 May when the trial was expected to begin.
  • 27 May: Beatrice’s case was set to start at Rotten Row Magistrates Court presided over by Magistrate Tendai Mahwe. The trial failed to start on time because Tawanda Zvekare, the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions in the Attorney General’s Office and Michael Mugabe, the chief law officer who were leading the prosecution did not arrive at the court on time. The trial was also delayed because the designated courtroom did not have the necessary equipment to record the proceedings. Then when eventually a courtroom with equipment was found, power went off.
  • 27 May: Magistrate Tendai Mahwe postponed Beatrice’ trial to 8 June 2013.
  • 8 June: Magistrate Tendai Mahwe recused himself from presiding over Beatrice’s trial after she had filed an application for such recusal stating that Magistrate Mahwe had already heard the testimony that her witness would give in another case.
  • 10 June: Beatrice’s trial kicked off at Rotten Row Magistrates Court presided over by Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa. She was represented by her lawyer, Harrison Nkomo. Beatrice pleaded not guilty to charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice.
  • 10 June: Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa postponed Beatrice’s trial to Saturday 15 June 2013 to allow her lawyer to attend to some other matters in the High Court.
  • Meanwhile the trial continues with hearings held each Saturday and we wait to hear what the final verdict will be.

Anomalies with this case

  • Arrest of a legal practitioner while conducting her duties;
  • Contempt of court by police officers ignoring a High Court order;
  • Retrial by the Magistrates Court of an issue that had already been decided by a higher court;
  • Harassment of a High Court Judge for ordering the release of an upright human rights defender;
  • Display of political intolerance and disregard for constitutional and legal guarantees of freedom and rights of citizens.

**** If convicted, Beatrice stands to serve a maximum penalty of either a fine of $400 or 2 years’ imprisonment, or both fine and imprisonment. ****

 Acknowledgement goes to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Sokwanele, Veritas, Kubatana and a few other independent sources of information for the information resources used to compile this update.


Reflections on the SADC Summit


A couple of nights ago, I attended an event hosted by the Southern Africa Political Economy Series (SAPES) Trust. The discussion brought together three panellists; Ambassador Chris Mutsvangwa of ZANU PF, Honourable Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga of MDC and Honourable Jameson Timba of the MDC-T. Dr Ibbo Mandaza facilitated the discussion in which the panellists gave their personal reflections on the recently held Extraordinary Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit of heads of states and governments held in Maputo, Mozambique on the Zimbabwean situation. The Summit culminated in the issuance of a Communique whose recommendations are captured HERE.

Jameson Timba (Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Publicity and Member of House of Assembly for Mount Pleasant)

Mr Timba mentioned that the purpose of the SADC Summit was to discuss the Zimbabwean Situation in the context of the Global Political Agreement. Given that SADC are the guarantours of the GPA, they serve the role of a service station, when the GPA needs a push or boost. He explained that the reality is that Zimbabwe is facing a political rather than a legal crisis because the Constitutional crisis the nation is in could have been avoided had the wrong political decisions not been made in the first place. He said that the MDC-T went to the SADC Summit very confident that the 31 July date set for elections could easily be changed to accommodate the reforms agenda given that there is already precedent in our courts where the President has sought postponement of by-elections on the grounds that the state is ill-prepared i.e. the case of Bhebhe & Others v The State.

Jameson Timba: Picture Credit Bulawayo24.com

Jameson Timba: Picture Credit Bulawayo24.com

Mr Timba felt that the Summit went very well and that the final Communiqué that came out of the discussions expressed SADC’s wishes for Zimbabwe’s successful transition into a democracy through the holding of credible, free and fair elections. Mr Timba expressed his admiration for the President of Zimbabwe and his conduct at the SADC Summit.  In Mr Timba’s view, the President-unlike those who surround him- showed that he respects SADC, something which Mr Timba accredited to the President’s deep admiration of the regional body whose origins from the Frontline States during the struggle for independence represents a point of solidarity. He however expressed disappointment with some individuals within the President’s Party whom he said were constantly acting in bad faith. He cited the example of Honourable Patrick Chinamasa whom he said has shown bad faith in two instances:

  1. According to Mr Timba, on the Tuesday before the proclamation of the election date, Honourable Chinamasa was asked in a Cabinet meeting when he was going to present the Electoral Amendment Bill. He responded saying the Bill would be presented in the coming week meaning this week. According to Mr Timba, at this stage, Mr Chinamasa already knew that he was working on a Bill but that he had no intention of bringing it through Parliament but through the Presidential Powers Temporal Measures Act, which in Mr Timba’s view was an unconstitutional and underhanded manner of effecting electoral changes.
  2. Mr Timba also stated that the SADC Communiqué in Paragraph 8.5 says,

“Summit acknowledged the ruling of the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe on the elections date and agreed on the need for the Government of Zimbabwe to engage the Constitutional Court to seek more time beyond 31 July 2013 deadline for holding the Harmonised elections.”

Mr Timba emphasised that when SADC said government, it was referring to the whole inclusive government.  This then meant that the government of Zimbabwe (the inclusive government) in its entirety was urged to bring a case before the courts to remedy the situation of the election date proclamation. Mr Timba said that he was however disappointed that at 5p.m on Monday, Mr Chinamasa served him with papers in which he (Mr Chinamasa) filed an application to the Constitutional Court and made the President of Zimbabwe-Robert Mugabe, the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe-Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC Party-Welshman Ncube, the Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe-Arthur Mutambara and Jealousy Mawarire the Respondents. In the Application Mr Chinamasa asks for an extension of the election date to August 14. Mr Timba explained that this application is against the spirit of the SADC Communiqué. Instead of making the parties mentioned above respondents, they all should have been cited as Applicants, they should all have contributed to the application’s contents through their legal representatives’ interaction with the Minister of Justice and the application should have been unopposed (one without respondents).

Chris Mutsvangwa (Member of ZANU-PF and former Ambassador of Zimbabwe to China)

He began his presentation by stating that he does not agree with the view that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe, be it political, legal, constitutional or otherwise because to him the current situation is a mere disagreement not a crisis. He then went on to give a disclaimer stating that although he was in Maputo he did not actually participate in the discussions that took place at the Summit nor was he privy to the outcome until he saw the Communiqué when it was presented to the public. [This admission for me was particularly interesting having read THIS article in which the author complained that the President’s delegation was bloated].

Mr Mutsvangwa however explained the position of his party where the Summit was concerned. He said that the President went with the simple position that ‘THE’ Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe had made an order setting the election date as 31 July. The president had no option but to respect the order of the Court or else he would have risked being in contempt of Court, something that could cost him his presidential candidacy. According to Mr Mutsvangwa, the President’s hands were tied and he had no option but to proclaim an election date as provided for in the Constitutional Court Judgement.

Chris Mutsvangwa: Picture Credit- ZimbabweMirror.com

Chris Mutsvangwa: Picture Credit- ZimbabweMirror.com

Concerning the question of reforms, Mr Mutsvangwa stated that no reforms are going to take place and those clamouring for reforms should remember that these same issues have been under discussion for the past four years with no success hence what is the likelihood that they will be settled in a few weeks when they have failed to be settled in years. He stated that ZANU-PF in 1980 was faced with a similar situation where they had to go for elections in an imperfect environment with no reforms to the electoral law nor to the security sector yet they still won the elections. He explained that the issue is not about reforms but about the leader whom Zimbabweans want to vote for. He said that each party has to be creative in how it “deals with the imperfections of state craft.” Mr Mutsvangwa went on to say that refusing to have elections on the basis that the environment is not perfect is akin to  a pregnant woman  who opposes the course of nature and refuses to give birth to her baby after 9 months of pregnancy because she thinks the baby is not mature enough.

Mr Mutsvangwa addressed his partners in government saying that it is time government stopped ruling by arrangement but rather by the people’s choice. He went further to say that yes SADC issued its Communiqué but people must remember that SADC is not Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court, it is just a club of states hence if Zimbabweans want elections on 31 July, SADC cannot stop that from happening.

Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga (Secretary General of the MDC, Member of the House of Assembly Glen Norah Constituency and currently Minister of Regional Integration and International Cooperation)

Ms Misihairambwi-Mushonga began her presentation by expressing her disappointment with the way in which this nation has been subjected to blatant lies, abuse and distortion of information She stated that she was disappointed with the fact that Honourable Chinamasa who was negotiating on behalf of ZANU-PF was not at the SAPES discussion as he was the person who would have best explained the distortions coming out of some quarters of the press about the outcome of the SADC Summit. She felt that Mr Mutsvangwa’s representation of Mr Chinamasa was an act of abuse since Mr Mutsvangwa had no clue what took place having been “on the corridors” of the Summit.

Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga: Picture Credit-The Independent.co.zw

Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga: Picture Credit-The Independent.co.zw

Ms Misihairambwi-Mushonga then went on to give a detailed description of what transpired at the Summit as follows:

SADC was appraised with the situation of Zimbabwe which they understood to be that Zimbabwe was faced with a legal crisis in which there was a Constitutional Court judgement but that judgement juxtaposed to the practical realities on the ground would not be possible to implement. The Facilitator for the Zimbabwean negotiations, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa presented his report which came out of discussions held by the parties to the GPA on the 4th, 5th and 6th of June 2013. The facilitator’s report was therefore not challenged nor disputed by all three political parties i.e. ZANU PF, MDC-T and MDC.

Ms Misihairambwi Mushonga then went on to state where the parties seemed to have different positions and she explained them as follows:

President Mugabe’s position was that he believed that as long as there is no violence then an election can go on. He agreed with the need for media reforms and also stated that he has been a victim of the media’s unprofessional and unethical conduct several times but that within the given time there is nothing much that can be done about this. He also addressed the issue of the rule of law, in particular the security sector, acknowledged that statements by some heads of security departments were not acceptable nor appropriate but that they could be explained when one understands that these statements were made by people who shared the liberation struggle with ZANU PF and hence would feel protective over their ideals. He then requested that these Chiefs be treated gently and with such sensitivity as would take cognisance of their socialisation and history. On the election date he explained that his hands were tied and he had to make the proclamation because the Constitutional Court had ordered him to do so. According to Ms Misihairambwi Mushonga, the President never disputed the facilitators’ report, never said that the report lied or that the facilitator was biased.

Ms Misihairambwi-Mushonga then went on to explain that Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s contention at the Summit was with the dishonesty shown by some members of the inclusive government. He explained how Minister Chinamasa had withheld the truth from Cabinet about his plans to amend the Electoral Act through using the Presidential Powers instead of introducing a Bill for debate and inclusive input before both houses of Parliament.

Ms Misihairambwi-Mushonga then explained Professor Welshman Ncube’s position; that he was concerned with the legal and political illegitimacy that would follow whatever government that would emerge out of the elections that would be held under the ruling of the Constitutional Court.

Ms Misihairambwi-Mushonga was pleased with the Communiqué, disappointed with some people whom she said were ill advising the President and hoped that the spirit of the Communiqué would be upheld.

Some interesting quotes from the discussion

“I am tired of this fixation of men on who is bigger than who which leads them into this bravado game where simple information is distorted and the truth withheld from the public.” Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga

“Chinamasa and others’ advice to the President on this elections issue is misleading, in fact it is treasonous.” Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga

“I hate it when leaders of this country behave like landlords and treat the people like their tenants. Leaders are just caretakers and the people are the real owners of all processes.” Jameson Timba

“For goodness’ sake no one owns this country.” Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga

“If anyone is not happy with the way we do things here and thinks there is a crisis let them come and I will fly them to Somalia so they can see what a real crisis looks like.” Chris Mutsvangwa

Conclusion

It was an interesting discussion and all the views presented here are the views as expressed by the panellists to the discussion. In the end Ambassador Mutsvangwa walked out of the meeting in protest over what he said was “utter disrespect” by Ms Misihairambwi- Mushonga of those who “delivered the country into her hands so that she could become a Minister.”


Some interesting titbits to mull over voting processes in Zimbabwe


Titbit One

Deriving from the statistical figures of the 2012 Census there are approximately 6 070 537 adults in Zimbabwe. This means approximately 52% of the total Zimbabwean population are above 18 years of age. I am saying approximately here because up to date, ZimStats-the body mandated to conduct national Census- has only released the “preliminary” results from the 2012 Census and has not released all the full figures of that exercise, despite that the Census was concluded in September 2012; 9 months ago. How efficient, right!

Titbit Two

Zimbabwe has a total population of about 13.2 million. Of these, the RG says 5 867 642 were registered to vote as of October 2010. This means 87.8% of all eligible voters were registered to vote then. On the other hand Kenya has about 44 million citizens and of these about 12 616 627 were registered to vote in the 2013 elections. Now this is interesting, right? Is it because Zimbabweans are more educated about the importance of participating in ‘democratic’ processes than Kenyans? Is it that Kenyans are apathetic and do not engage political processes? Could it be that Kenyans were discouraged by the 2007/2008 electoral violence? But we also had a good share of that, so then was their violence worse than ours?  Do we as Zimbabweans have more faith in elections and so we always want to have our voices heard through the ballot? Or is it just as simple as that these figures are not accurate? Is it possible that some people registered to vote never registered to vote but were put on the voters’ roll by the Registrar General since he has all their birth, death, citizenship details as well?

A picture that I took of the scores of voters who thronged the Ongata Rongai Open Market in Nairobi, Kenya Polling Station to vote in March 2013

A picture that I took of the scores of voters who thronged the Ongata Rongai Open Market in Nairobi, Kenya Polling Station to vote in March 2013

Titbit Three

According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission 3 316 082 Zimbabweans voted in the 16 March 2013 Referendum for a new Constitution of Zimbabwe. Of these, 3 079 966 voted ‘Yes’, 179 489 voted ‘No.’ Very impressive, right? I do wonder where these people came from though because having observed the process, the turnout-at least in Harare- was very low. On the other hand in Kenya 66.9% voted ‘Yes’, 30.7 voted ‘No’ and voter turnout was at 72.2%. Seems we Zimbabweans love our new constitution more than the Kenyans love theirs. Is it because our new Constitution is better than the Kenyan one? Is it because we yearned for a new Constitution more than they did? Could this have something to do with the fact that Zimbabweans hardly knew what they were voting for whereas Kenyans had several months in which they were intensively educated and informed about the contents of their Constitution and hence voting in Kenya was from a fully informed position?

Titbit four

According to a voters’ roll audit conducted by the Research and Advocacy Unit in October 2010, there were 41, 119 people aged over 100 years on the Voters Roll. It seems Zimbabwe is a healthy nation full of politically conscious and really old citizens, who want to stake their claim on the political landscape. I would love to interview all these people and find out what voting has meant to them for the past +/- 85 years, including the years when they were dis-enfranchised under white supremacist rule, their experiences with voting in an independent Zimbabwe and voting in all the subsequent elections.

Titbit Five

Did you know that the Registrar General is in charge of recording births? He is also in charge of recording deaths and is also in charge of awarding citizenship. Further, the RG is also in charge of the registration of voters; although under the transitional provisions of the new constitution such registration is supposed to be done under the supervision of ZEC. What does this mean for people considered to be aliens? What does this mean for the removal of dead people off the voters’ roll? What does it mean for the accurate recording of people eligible to vote? Is there enough supervision of these extensive powers? What safeguards are there for the abuse of power and manipulation of the voters’ roll?

Titbit Six

Did you know that before any voter is removed from the voters’ roll the Registrar General must send written notification of the intent to so remove?  This includes even people who are presumed dead. This is to allow the person to appeal the decision in case they have reason to believe that they should remain on the voters’ roll or in case they are actually not dead as presumed. Does anyone know if such notifications were given when the Registrar General removed the 969 620 ‘dead’ people that he removed from the voters’ roll as announced by the Herald on Friday 3 May 2013?


New Bottles:Old Wine- Looking at the Constitutional Court Elections judgement


*This Blog has been cross-posted from the RAU blog*

On Friday 31st May, 2013 the newly established Constitutional Court issued its first judgment, that is the case of Jealousy Mbizvo Mawarire  v Robert Gabriel Mugabe N.O. and Ors CCZ1/13. The judgment concerned an urgent application by Mr. Mawarire, brought on the basis of a claim that the President was constitutionally obliged to set the dates for Zimbabwe’s next general election no later than the day after the 29th June, 2013 when Parliament reaches the end of its constitutionally prescribed five year term. The failure to do so, Mr. Mawarire maintained, was a breach of his constitutional rights and would have the unconstitutional effect of the country being governed without a Parliament.

The case had various bizarre and curious facets even before the judgment was delivered. President Mugabe had repeatedly stated his desire to hold elections as soon as possible after the passage of the new constitution into law on the 22nd May, 2013 and well before October 29th, 2013, the date the MDC formations had contended was the latest possible constitutional date for the poll.

Thus the immediate question which arose was, if this was the President’s desire, why did he not exercise his presidential prerogative to dissolve Parliament and announce the earlier election date? It is clear that Parliament was required to bring the new constitution into being, and hence Parliament could not have been dissolved before the Constitutional Bill became law. However, did this in any way mean that the President could not have proclaimed the dissolution of Parliament at a future date that allowed ample time for Constitutional Bill to be passed?

There were also several other complications related to the proclamation of elections:

  1. The MDC formations and SADC all insisted that various reforms had to take place before elections
  2. Prior to the adoption of the new constitution, it was a constitutional requirement that the MDC-T Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, had to be consulted on the date of the dissolution of Parliament, if it were to be dissolved by proclamation rather than by automatic dissolution through the passing of time

It would not have been politically expedient for the President to have brought the application before the Constitutional Court himself. However, a, Mr. Mawarire stepped up to the plate and brought the application “against” the President.  Unsurprisingly, the President’s “opposing” paper, rather than disputing the Applicant’s case, as is usual, wholeheartedly agreed with his argument, though did not it seems, having agreed with the Applicant’s interpretation of the law, offer any reasons why he had then failed to comply with it

The issue before the nine member bench of the Supreme Court, sitting as the Constitutional Court, was to determine the chronological parameters mandated by the constitution for the holding of a general election following the dissolution of Parliament. The dissolution of parliament can take place in one of two ways;

  1. Either following a proclamation by the President, or
  2. Through the effluxion of time when the five year term of Parliament ends.

The determination of the issue revolved around the interpretation of subsection 58(1) of the old constitution, as read with subsections 63(4) and 63(7), which are still to apply until the new constitution becomes fully operational.

Section 58(1) provides as follows:

A general election and elections for members of the governing bodies of local authorities shall be held on such day or days within a period not exceeding four months after the issue of a proclamation dissolving Parliament under section 63(7) or, as the case may be, the dissolution of Parliament under section 63(4) as the President may, by proclamation in the Gazette, fix.

The judges of the new Constitutional Court seized with the matter were not fresh judicial appointees.. Chief Justice Chidyausiku wrote the judgment for the majority.. In the judgment  he construed section 58(1) so that its meaning became ambiguous. This was done by violating some very basic rules of grammar in the following way.

He inserted colons into the section (where none existed in the original) ostensibly to highlight what he claimed was the ambiguous nature of the provision, but in factto creating an ambiguity that did not exist before.

The insertion of punctuation can dramatically change the meaning of a sentence, for example:

‘While the mother was cooking the baby her brother and the dog were sleeping.’

When punctuated, the sentence is easier to read.

‘While the mother was cooking, the baby, her brother and the dog were sleeping.’

But leave out a comma and the text becomes more sinister

‘While the mother was cooking the baby, her brother and the dog were sleeping.’

By inserting a colon after “on” in section 58(1), Chief Justice Chidyausiku altered the meaning of the provision to read:

          58(1) A general election and elections for members of the governing bodies of local authorities shall be held on:

i)                    such day or days within a period not exceeding four months after the issue of a proclamation dissolving Parliament under section 63(7) or,

ii)                  as the case may be, the dissolution of Parliament under section 63(4) as the President may, by proclamation in the Gazette, fix.

 By the insertion of the colons, Justice Chiyausiku creates a new meaning for section 58(1), which gives the Applicant the desired result. That meaning is that the President must have set the election date within a period of four months before the dissolution of Parliament and that an election should be held upon the dissolution of Parliament.

This is not what the law (without the colons) says. The law says an election shall be held within a period of four months AFTER the President issues the proclamation Parliament dissolving parliament or within a period of four months AFTER Parliament dissolves automatically at the end of its five year term. That five year term  ends on 29 June and the law allows the President to continue in office, in this event, after Parliament has been dissolved, but with the requirement that he to set an election date within four months from the time of such dissolution..

Further, the Chief Justice in coming to his conclusion made the assertion that reading the ‘after’ to mean precisely that i.e. ‘after’ would create a ‘mind boggling’ situation in which the country existed without Parliament. This is not a sound argument. The Chief Justice knows very well that:

1. In the past the date for an election has always been announced AFTER, and not BEFORE, dissolution of Parliament which has meant that the President previously has continued to be in office without a ParliamentThe Constitution, in fact, specifically allows for Parliament to be ‘prorogued’  (delayed) for periods of as much as 180 days,[1] and the power to prorogue Parliament for such an extended period  lies with the President under the current constitution.

2. The executive continued to function without legislative oversight for five months between the dissolution of Parliament for the March 2008 election and the start of the seventh Parliament in 2008 without anyone’s mind being boggled or any ruling of absurdity being made.

Even if this judgment is correct, the Chief Justice did not avert to some very important facts that may make it impossible for the President to comply with the 31 July deadline:

  1. Provisions of the new constitution, which are effective from the date of publication, stipulate that there must be at least 44 days between the proclamation of the election dates and the Election Day itself.
  2. The new constitution also provides that the Electoral Act cannot be changed once the election dates have been announced.
  3. The Electoral Act must be amended to bring it into line with the new constitution, especially in regard to the introduction of a system of proportional representation.
  4. The President cannot proclaim the election dates until the amendments to the Electoral Act have been finalised.
  5. There is no guarantee that the amendments to the Electoral Act will be agreed upon  and finalised at least 44 days before the 31st July, 2013. This means that the President may then either have to violate the constitutional requirement that 44 days elapse between the electoral proclamation and the election itself, or fail to meet the 31st July, 2013 deadline.

[1] Section 62(2) of the Constitution.

*This post was adapted from an Opinion Piece produced by Derek Matyszak. To read more follow this link on the RAU website.


10 reasons why June is such a special month


June is here. For some, it is the beginning of a new season, a chance to reshape their vision and see where they are with their new year’s resolutions-for what better time is there than the middle of the year  to take stock. June is the month of changeovers in real physical climatic terms. In the Northern hemisphere, their summer has begun while for us in the Southern hemisphere, our winter has begun. This month in history has recorded the number of things- some amazing, others tragic – that have happened/taken place shaping the history of my country, my continent and the world.

  1. I was born in this month on the 28th- the same day as Pope Paul IV (1476) Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712)  one of the greatest philosophers in the world, Lamina Sankoh (1884)  one of the most famous Sierra Leonean politicians who advocated economic development of the black person and religious emancipation free from Western ideology , Chris Hani (1942) one of the most amazing brains behind South Africa’s anti apartheid struggle and leader of the South African Communist Party and Chief of staff of the Umkhonto weSizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress.

    Image Source: http://urbantimes.co/2011/09/wake-of-liberty-4-bon-appetit-bon-voyage/rousseau/

    Image Source: www. urbantimes.co

  2. For women it is significant because in this month, on the 6th in 1872, that one woman charted the way for the development of one of the most fundamental rights that any citizen is able to exercise. Most of us take it as a given. Some of us do not even exercise it yet some people fought hard for it-the right to vote. Susan Anthony mobilised a group of women to test their status as citizens by voting in the same manner as men even though they were not legally permitted to. Although they got arrested and fined for it, that initial step paved the way for the recognition, FOR THE FIRST TIME, 34 years later of women’s right to vote.

    Susan Anthony-Picture Credit https://www.google.co.zw/search?safe=off&sa=X&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpetridigs10-racism.pbworks.com%2Fw%2Fpage%2F16200046%2FSusan%2520B%2520Anthony&imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpetridigs10-racism.pbworks.com%2Ff%2F1173771502%2Fsusan-b-anthony-320x240.jpg&w=320&h=240&ndsp=22&tbm=isch&tbs=simg%3ACAQSHwkikYciWqMckxoLCxCo1NgEGgIIFwwh_1lRLmBU2NPk&ei=SKCoUZmrCejUiwLwrIDwDA&ved=0CAkQhxwwAA&biw=1517&bih=693#facrc=_&imgrc=nf53slOwf-fHGM%3A%3BANG0Z6pvcPlvIM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fs3.timetoast.com%252Fpublic%252Fuploads%252Fphotos%252F3912502%252FUnknown.jpeg%253F1366896518%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.timetoast.com%252Ftimelines%252Fwomens-rights-movement--25%3B640%3B480

    Susan Anthony-Picture Credit http://www.timetoast.com

  3. We commemorate so many important days, which are dear to my heart touching on many important issues affecting the lives of many African citizens such as protection of children, protection of  the  environment, ending child labour, addressing the plight of refugees, ending all forms of drug abuse and illicit trafficking as well as supporting victims of torture; with commemorations taking place on 1, 5, 12, 20 and 26  June respectively
  4. It is the month in which a number of countries celebrate national days of great significance. On the African continent a number of countries declared their independence from colonial powers in the month of June. These are the Democratic Republic of Congo on 30 June 1960 declaring independence from the Belgians, Madagascar on 26 June in 1960 from the French, Djibouti on 27 June 1977 from the French, Mozambique on 25 June 1975 from the Portuguese, and Seychelles on June 29 1976 from the British. Globally other countries also celebrate significant national days. For instance Sweden celebrates its national day on the 6th, the Philippines its Independence Day on the 12th, while the US and Finland celebrate their flag days on the 14th and 24th of June respectively.
  5. It is the month in which Robert F Kennedy was shot, on the 5th in 1968 and his death, combined with that of Martin Luther King earlier began a period in which the hope for reforms and lesser racial segregation of African- Americans that had been sparked seemed to take a backslide.

    Martin Luther King: Picture Credit newindependentwhig.blogspot.com

    Martin Luther King: Picture Credit newindependentwhig.blogspot.com

  6. June is the month that brought an end to attempts by megalomaniacs to control and rule the world. Napoleon’s tyranny ended with the battle of Waterloo in central Belgium, on 18 June 1815, ending 23 years of warfare between France and the allied powers of Europe. On June 28 1919-my birthday too, oh well minus the year-the Treaty of Versailles was signed signifying the end of World War I.  The end of World War II was earmarked by, among other things, the Battle of Okinawa, Japan in which he allied forces on June 21, 1945 defeated the Japanese who were keys allies of the German Reich under Hitler.
  7. To bring it closer to home June for me represents the sets of contradictions that make up the whole of my society. It was in June that land invasions, leading to the fast track land reform programme began. These invasions then led to the displacement of thousands of farm workers and predominantly white farmers. It built up into a food crisis with underproduction and underutilisation of the land leaving most farms derelict. It contributed to the economic meltdown that saw many Zimbabweans thrown into poverty. Yet for some-albeit few- that very same month represents the beginnings of black empowerment for they got the land that they had clamoured for since independence.
  8. It was on 27 June 2007, that central bank governor Gideon Gono announced his decision to print an additional 1 trillion Zimbabwean dollars to pay civil servants’ and soldiers’ salaries that had been by 600% and 900% respectively one of the most ridiculous decisions that began a pattern of inflation in which increases in civil servants’ salaries automatically meant increases in the cost of all goods and services. For some that decision was premised on quick gains as a means to an end-pay civil servants-get votes from civil servants yet for others (the majority) it had lasting effects- a destabilised economy and a fragile currency that we cannot use even up till today.
  9. June is the time I take to reflect on what being a hero means because it is the month when many Zimbabweans in 2008 sacrificed their lives for an ideal; an ideal that they had never experienced but hoped for and were willing to die for: Democracy. The death and devastation of the run up to the 27 June election “The Ides of June” as some call it remains fresh in the memories of many people. I remember those who lost limb and life, home and haven, peace of mind and sanctity of the body just so we could all live in peace with freedom and dignity.
  10. But among the doom and gloom, we celebrate Black Music Month, a tradition born in the US to celebrate African American music and culture-embracing the beat of the drum, the shakers, the marimbas, kalimbas and udus.

    Mbira instrument. Picture Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

    Mbira instrument. Picture Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Indeed, June is special.


Lest we get caught napping!!


On Friday the 17th of May 2013, the Parliament of Zimbabwe gazetted Statutory Instrument 68 of 2013. This piece of law contains regulations by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission- in line with the Zimbabwean Electoral Act- that govern processes of registration.

On Wednesday 22 May, I attended a huge civil society meeting of individuals and organisations allegedly working on elections and only 2 had seen, read and analysed the implications of that instrument to the conduct of elections. I am one of those who hadn’t read or applied my mind to this piece of law. Disappointing, yes, but tragic more like because it is through missing these fine details that we fail to interrogate the openness of electoral processes. It was through one of the 2 wise people who had read this piece of law that this idea came to me, to give a brief outline of some of the important provisions in this Act and a pseudo-analysis of the implications of Statutory Instrument 68 of 2013.

Accessing the voter’s roll

The law: Section 2 of the Act provides that an Electronic Voters’ Roll will be made available to anyone who wants it at the cost of US$5 per ward or $10 per constituency and the roll will only be available as a ward voters’ roll or a constituency voters’ roll.

Implications: This is somewhat of an improvement because previously the voters’ roll was available to the public at $15 per ward meaning that the national voters’ roll was available at a whooping $30 000. However, we currently have 210 constituencies in Zimbabwe. What that means is, for someone to have a complete national voters’ roll they must pay a total of $2100. Now the average Zimbabwean earns $300 a month. How on earth are they expected to fork out $2100 to pay for a voters’ roll? Some of you are probably asking, but why would an ordinary citizen want a national voters’ roll? Here is why:

i.            Access to the voters’ roll enables citizens to inspect the roll and confirm and validate their inclusion given that being on the voters’ roll enables them to exercise their constitutional right to vote and elect the leaders of their choice. Citizens need to ensure that they are not missing from the voters’ roll, that their names are spelt correctly, that their details are captured aptly and that they are placed in the right constituency.

ii.            Access to the voters’ roll enables citizens to detect irregularities that are currently being perpetuated under this whole veil of secrecy. For instance, there would be no dead people on the voter’s roll if it was readily available because the living relatives of the dead would notice the irregularity. Neither would there be more than 100 000 people, all born on the 1st of January 1901 if all citizens had access to the roll because such a blatant irregularity would spark public outrage. It would also not be possible to inflate the number of voters in a given constituency if every citizen could scrutinise the roll.

iii.            The voters’ roll has useful details about population demographics that enable civic work to be done in a much easier and straight forward manner. For instance if you want to start a programme that benefits young women in peri-urban areas, through the voters’ roll you can know exactly which ones are the peri-urban areas, how many young women there are, where they are densely populated and where they are not and in so doing priority areas are easily identifiable. Besides civic work, the same information is useful for government’s social welfare agenda and I doubt very much that the roll is easily available to all civil servants within the Department of Social Welfare.

It is pretty obvious why the voters’ roll is a secret document: there is a bid to close out the public by those in power from influencing the transparency of voting processes and for as long as ZEC puts a price tag on the voters’ roll they are in cohorts with those who would want to steal elections through manipulation of the voters’ roll. That the roll is being sold is not only outrageous but also ridiculous given that its compilation was made possible through the use of public funds gathered from tax payers’ money?

Querying the voters’ roll

Section 3(7) of the Act provides that any objection to the retention of a name on the voters’ roll shall be charged at US$5 per name. What this means is that the ZEC is implying that they are NOT infallible, that they could NEVER make a mistake and that the voters’ roll is PERFECT. Therefore should any individual or organisation or political party have any reason to believe that a certain name on the voters’ roll should not be on the voters’ roll then they shall be charged if they want that name  to be removed, even if they are ABSOLUTELY right and that name should NOT be on the roll. Here is a good example of how ridiculous this provision is:

Imagine that I get a copy of the voters’ roll then find that my grandfather who passed away in 2007 is still on the voters’ roll. Should I file an objection to ZEC stating that my dead grandfather is still on the roll and should therefore be removed, ZEC will make me pay $5.

In other words citizens are being penalised for their vigilance and attempts at ensuring accountability and transparency. Does this make any sense?

I must point out however that the Act is not all doom and gloom. It makes some things about voter registration very clear.

Identity when registering

For instance Section 5 of the Regulations makes it very clear that a driver’s license is not a valid identity card for purposes of registration to vote and that only the following identity documents will enable people to register to vote:

  1. A national ID card
  2. A waiting pass- this is a type of document with the photograph of the person named that can be issued in terms of the National Registration Act. It simply confirms that the person who has it has applied for an ID, has not yet had the ID issued and confirms when the actual ID will be ready for collection. This is probably not as useful anymore nowadays as it used to be in the olden days as most ID’s are issued instantly.
  3. A valid passport

Proof of residence when registering

Section 6 of the regulations also makes it clear that the following documents can suffice as proof of residence:

  • Title deeds showing that you own the property
  • A certificate of occupation of a specific property
  • Any bill or statement that reflects your name on it. This could be a water bill, electricity bill, rates bill, telephone bill or credit store statements. So any statements from Edgars, Topics or such other chain stores telling you how much you still owe them for the clothes you bought is proof that you live where you say you live and it’s enough to get you registered to vote.
  • A statement by your parents (if you live with them) or your landlord (if you are renting) or from your friend (if you also live with them) confirming that you do live with them. However you must also have either a copy of the title deeds or the certificate of occupation or a bill/statement from the address that you live at in the name of your parents, landlord or friend.
  • If you live at a mine, school, hospital or such other institution then you must have a statement by the head of that institution confirming that you live there
  • If you have none of these things then you can get a letter from your employer who can vouch for you that you live where you say you live because that is the address they have in your employee files
  • Those living in the rural areas need a letter from either the headman or councillor or village head or the chief of the kraal from which they come
  • If you live on a farm then you must get a letter from the farm owner confirming that you live on the farm
  • If you live in resettlement areas then you must get a letter from the resettlement officer or produce an offer letter if you are a newly resettled farmer
  • A hospital bill or a letter sent you via post but with stamp markings still on the envelope will work
  • If all else fails then when you go to register you can ask to fill in an Affidavit  also know as a V.R.8 Form

So get going with your Topics/Barbours/Edgars credit statements to register to vote and if they ask you where you got that from tell them: Because MaDube said so.


Rule of Law: A lost trajectory


Last month, one of the most fearless human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, Beatrice Mtetwa, was arrested. Her crime: speaking in defense of her client as a lawyer. This was not the first time that Beatrice had faced challenges in executing her duties. Beatrice’s undaunted courage and persistence is beyond admirable. I explored the possibly plausible reasons for her arrest in my article: The story of Beatrice Mtetwa: A Red Herring?

The following trailer of the film: Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law, co-produced by Hopewell Chin’ono and Lorie Conway, captures Beatrice’s struggle as a lawyer dealing with the paradox of a country with a thousand laws but gripped by lawlessness, with such lawlessness perpetrated by those entrusted with the duty to enforce and uphold the laws of this country in the Constitution; the police, the judiciary, the executive power of the state.

Watch away…


Of coups, rebellions & revolutions: CAR


They say history has a way of repeating itself. Ten years ago, the very same headlines we are reading today were topping most papers in the press. “Central African Republic: Rebel leader seizes power, suspends constitution” Irin News. Then;  the reaction of the African Union was the same; they ‘strongly condemned’ Bozize’s actions. The then Chairperson of the AU, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, said the coup undermined the continent’s efforts to achieve sustainable development.  After inordinate delays, in 2005, an election was finally held, legitimising the coup government. The formation of that government was immediately followed by the continuation of arbitrary arrests, denial of fair trials, use of excessive force by security agents, abductions, torture and physical abuse, the use of child soldiers, suppression of freedoms of the press, expression, assembly, and association-which had been the order of the day from the date the coup took place.

I look at the political history of the Central African Republic and wonder, “Have they now developed an unwritten rule of a maximum term of ten years of autocratic rule given that the currently deposed leader, Francoise Bozize, also ousted his predecessor Ange-Felix Patasse in the same manner in 2003 after 10 years of repressive rule.

A myriad of rhetorical questions keep floating in my head. What drives the poorest of the poorest, countries into so much conflict? Why can’t they ever achieve peace? Don’t they realise they need peace if they are ever going to have a stable economy? Why are they always fighting? Do the people of the Central African Republic deserve the leadership they keep getting? Does any of us on the African continent? Where are we going wrong as African citizens to keep getting leaders who do not hold our interests at heart? What are we doing wrong to keep getting these narcissist egomaniacs as the leaders of our countries?

The Central African Republic has been plunged into yet another unpredictable era of instability by the coup leaders. Will they be any better than the people they have ousted-only time will tell. The African Union has given this type of change of government a name, this change that usually doesn’t really change anything besides increasing the misery of the citizens. They call them unconstitutional changes of government. The AU condemns these types of changes, they impose sanctions on the leaders of these changes, they engage the leaders  in dialogue to try and facilitate transitions to democratic rule- but is this enough? Will it ever be enough?

The Central African Republic is not really a poor country. They have large deposits of uranium, gold, oil and diamonds. They have wide spans of arable land, stretches of lumber and abundant hydro-power.

Why, have they remained in the top ten of Africa’s poorest countries?

Could it be the good governance deficit; because if a leader who came to power through a coup in 2003 is also leaving through a military coup in 2013, then this must be a clear sign that even after 10 years there haven’t been significant institutional reforms to allow for legal and smooth transition of power?

Could it be the remnants of the war; given that the CAR has not had significant stability since its independence from the French in 1960?

But what fuels the conflict?

Is it greed, with different sides thinking that the only way to gain access to the wealth that this country has is through acquisition of power and political influence?

Could it be external influence? It appears the Central African Republic had its independence declared in 1960 yet the struggle for independence continues. Bozize began a reign of terror 10 years ago, a period that he began ushered by a strong backing from the French. Repression, authoritarianism, nepotism, corruption and underdevelopment were the order of the day, so one would stop and ask, why the French would commit their funds, their  troops and efforts to protect Bozize’s government, if democracy, good governance, development and prosperity is what they [as members of the European Union] want for the people of the Republic.

Franceafrique a friend calls it; the continued interference of the French government in the politics of its former colonies- a handpicking of leadership, a sponsorship of rebel groups to unseat “unwanted leaders”, a total disregard to the idea of democracy and good governance.

All I can say is “Cry my beloved continent,” as the peoples of Africa continue the struggle for true independence, for peace and for development.

Meanwhile the media is in a frenzy:

  • “Bozize ouster is latest power grab in Africa’s “phantom state” Reuters
  • “President Francois Bozize missing as Central African Republic capital seized by rebels” The Australian
  • “Francois Bozize flees CAR capital as rebels move in” Scotsman.com
  • “Francois Bozize, Central African Republic President, Overthrown By Rebels” The Huffington Post
  • “Looting and Gunfire in Captured Central African Republic Capital” Al Jazeera
  • “Central African Republic’s Francois Bozize flees as rebels invade capital” South China Morning Post
  • “Central African Republic: President Bozize flees Bangui” BBC News Africa
  • “Central African Republic rebels seize capital and force president to flee” The Guardian UK
  • “Britons told to leave Central African Republic after coup” The Telegraph

I wish they had had the same enthusiasm when Ghana had it’s smooth transition. As I said before, When it happens in Africa….


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