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Category Archives: Democracy

When an elder’s fall becomes epic #MugabeFalls


Growing up, the cardinal rule of my existence was that elderly people- all elderly people- deserve respect, by virtue of being old. The sense of respect for the elders is a part of our African cultural values, centred in our belief that the elderly are repositories of wisdom and history, carrying the knowledge of the hidden trails of our journey as a people from centuries past. We respect and obey our elders, deferring to them to make critical decisions because we believe they are inherently wise. Aging is symbolic of personal growth, personal strength, and resourcefulness and as such is considered an achievement. Spirit mediums such as Sekuru Kaguvi were revered, and, in consulting them, my people believed they were consulting oracles, trusting in their wisdom and foresight to provide guidance and direction.

As Emeka Emeakaroha argues, quoting William Conton: “Africans generally have deep and ingrained respect for old age, and even when we can find nothing to admire in an old man, we will not easily forget that his grey hairs have earned him right to courtesy and politeness.”

Picture Credit (Telegraph UK)

Picture Credit (Telegraph UK)

It is uncharacteristic of this innate sense of respect for the elderly to ridicule them and worse still to openly laugh at their misfortune. That is why the reactions to Mugabe’s fall call for interrogation of why many people rejoiced at such a tragic event. Why, when we are taught to respect elders whether they are right or wrong, have many young Zimbabweans on social media found pleasure in poking fun at our leader? What happened to the unwritten rule that all old people deserve love, care and above all respect?

A number of things are clear to me. First; there is an expectation that the last years of the elderly’s lives should be less pressured. Elders are expected to retire and enjoy their last days reminiscing over their youth and years of past activity. Second; elders are expected to be wise enough to know when their time is up; ceding power and handing over certain responsibilities to those around them. This idea of kutonga kusvika madhongi amera nyanga is the reason why some people are finding this unfortunate incident funny and using it to ridicule the President.

Picture Credit (Telegraph UK)

Picture Credit (Telegraph UK)

Third, there is no shame in falling per se; in fact watching an elder falling should ignite feelings of compassion and empathy. Ordinarily, those in the vicinity should have rushed to prevent the fall, rather than getting as many pictures as possible.However the indignity that the fall attracts is linked to the fact that a90 year old has been in power for over 34 years in which many things have gone awry. He has refused to let go of the power, including the option of letting a close ally succeed him, claiming he is as fit as a fiddle and has the energy of a 9 year old.  That fall showed that that may not be the case.

P

Picture Credit (Telegraph UK)

The trip and fall symbolises, to many,  the downfall of an untouchable figure. In a moment of his weakness, those who ordinarily have no voice to criticise him saw their opportunity to lash back. To mind comes the assassination of Julius Caesar. When he walked into the Senate Chamber, the plotters of his assassination surrounded him. As he attempted to get away, he tripped and fell; and lying defenceless on the lower steps of the portico, Rome’s most powerful emperor was stabbed 23 times to his death.

Picture Credit (Telegraph UK)

Picture Credit (Telegraph UK)

I find this whole incident around Mugabe’s fall and Zimbabweans on social media’s reactions to it, as sad as it is tragic. Sad because these are the years he should be reminiscing over the years of leadership past and reflecting on how the current leaders are getting it right or wrong.  Tragic because it is a reflection of who we have become as a society; bitter, vengeful, sadistic even as we derive pleasure from other people’s pain. Many will claim that it is the years of repression and censorship, death and destruction, violation of human rights, lawlessness and subjection to abject poverty that have made us who we are.

Whatever the case may be, when an elder’s fall becomes epic for its hilarity rather than its ill fortune then we know there is something really wrong with our society. But then again, Satire has become our only means of protest.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2015 in Africa, Democracy, Politics, Zimbabwe

 

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This fuckery must end! #freealaa


They are the most adorable couple I have ever met. Each time I think about them I am reminded that true love exists. They fell in love when they were teenagers and have not fallen out of it since. Over a decade now they have been together, more than a decade in which so much has happened.

We met; 2009, February. They were geeks; total computer/techy/nerdy geeks; -both of them. They knew stuff I didn’t know then and still don’t know now. Stuff about technology, hacking, security online, open software blah blah blah. I was a novice, I had no Twitter account, all I did was post pictures on Facebook, I had no blog, did not know anything about anonymity online or all that other stuff that techies know. So they made me open a Twitter account and start a Blog page; sadly both were to remain dormant for the next 2 years because I was still gripped by technophobia. Slowly and surely they coaxed me out of it and today I have blossomed-slightly-with a whole lot more to learn -in this technology business.

Our shared passion was activism as we found common ground in our fight for freedom, justice and equality. We shared our experiences; they shared what was happening in Egypt and I shared my Zimbabwean story. We compared notes and concluded Bob and Mubarak were having the same note-sharing exercise. Systemic repression of political freedoms, police brutality, enforced disappearances, ceremonial elections; the scenes were too similar; at least Bob pretended to care about the women.

2010 we moved to South Africa. We shared so many good times, playing playing tennis on Wii in their house, eating the spicy shawarmas, celebrating the world cup-some matches in the fan parks- others in the stadiums-all thanks to Alaa’s running around to get us the tickets.

2011 when all was good and we had no premonition things would turn out this bad

2011 when all was good and we had no premonition things would turn out this bad

Beginning of 2011 we met again. We were happy, genuinely happy. I found out Dodou (their son) was on his way, ecstatic to becoming an aunt. It had been Manal’s idea that I should go learn from Egypt. She sold it and I bought into it, brilliant idea, I thought and so I prepared to do the prophesied trek: Cape to Cairo.

A few months later, we all stood in Tahrir Square. They were heroes and heroines among their peers; a family of revolutionaries that have refused; through generations to sit and watch as injustices unfold. I left several months later, they stayed home, to continue the fight.

November 2013, the police raided Alaa and Manal’s home and arrested him, accusing him of  inciting illegal demonostrations. June 2014, Egyptian courts sentenced Alaa and 25 other people to 15 years in prison in a kangaroo fashion trial that handed down judgement in default; talk about fair trial! Today Alaa sits in a prison cell, while Manal is raising their child alone. 2 weeks ago Alaa’s dad passed on and he was not there to bid him farewell.

I am angry at all the injustices that have befallen my friends, angry on  behalf of that little boy who is growing up without his father; and even more angry that Alaa is now without his father and was not given the chance to say goodbye, detained on nonsensical charges.

What kind of fuckery is this; that gives certain individuals who call themselves politicians the power to mess with other people’s lives!  What idiotic nonsense is it that they actually can and always get away with these bullying tactics across borders and oceans? Where is justice when we need it; when those who fight for the welfare of every citizen are thrown into the dungeons of despair while the greedy fools who purport to have the masses’ interests at heart loot away?

 

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Activism, Africa, Democracy, Human Rights

 

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Dendere reshiri: The bird’s nest


The bird’s nest

There is a proverb amongst the Shona people in my country-Zimbabwe-which says

“Ziva kwaunobva, mudzimu weshiri uri mudendere” “Know where you are from, a bird’s ancestors are found in its nest”

This proverb speaks to the value of cultural heritage and roots. Once the bird’s nest is destroyed, its history and cultural heritage are gone. Destroying the nest kills the link between the bird’s current existence and its past. It’s in that old nest that memories of the past were made. Even though the bird may build another nest to create a new home for itself, that home carries no memories of the past nor does it have any value beyond the fact that it is just another nest. Preserving one’s cultural heritage is critical, not only for historical purposes but also for cultural value- linking past, future and present generations.

Montpelier, Monticello and  Ashlawn Highland 

Homes

The homes of 3 US presidents, James Madison’s Montpelier (top), Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (centre) declared a world heritage site by UNESCO and James Monroe’s Ashlawn Highland (bottom).

In the past 3 weeks, I spent time in and at three of America’s 44 presidents’ homes. These homes and plantations belong to three of America’s founding fathers: Monticello, home of the third President Thomas Jefferson, Ashlawn Highland- home of the fourth president James Monroe and – Montpelier,   home of the fifth President James Madison. Roaming around on these estates, I have come to know how these three bookworms designed the foundations of the American democracy as it is known today.

The three musketeers

The three leaders had certain values in common that leaders should emulate:

  1. They were revolutionary. They believed that a nation—their nation—could be built on the idea that people can govern themselves.  Jefferson—the visionary imagined an independent united American nation and so wrote the Declaration of Independence spelling out the aspirations of its people. Madison-the intellectual, realised that the aspirations contained in the Declaration could only find true practical meaning in another document that clearly spelled out how they could be achieved- the Constitution. Monroe-the operationalist, excelled in enlarging the American territory through his negotiations with the French and his diplomatic skills gained America the space and support it needed in the international world order.
  2. They were well read and multi-lingual. All had libraries in their homes and between them owned thousands of books in as many as seven languages: English, French, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew and German. It is from reading these books that they formed the ideas they pronounced so eloquently, which ideas shaped their nation’s history.
  3. Except for one thing, they believed in learning from other contexts. Because they spoke and understood many languages, they developed knowledge and connections to other countries’ histories, politics, cultures and traditions. The lessons that they gleaned from the French influenced the decor in their homes. Jefferson’s groomed estate consists of plants flaunted from Africa, Asia and his many travels to Europe. Their common fault, and exception to the listening trait, was their refusal to consider advice from their great friend and ally, Gilbert Du Motier- The Marquis de Lafayette, to give up and free the slaves they owned as the French had done in 1794. How such visionary men failed to see or refused to act on the injustice of slavery is something that will always diminish their greatness in my mind, as with any leader who blatantly ignores or commits human atrocities.
  4. They were patriotic. In all they did, these three men came together to plan and strategise on how to build a stronger and united America. Jefferson was about rights and revolution, Madison about structure and governance, while Monroe focused on international relations and diplomacy.

Through tours with capable guides, and observing the cultural heritage that the Americans have preserved of the men who designed their political system, I reaffirmed the value of doing the same in Zimbabwe.

Our language

Language connects us to our history and traditions. It is our heritage. Denigrating our own language and attempting to mould ourselves into a monolingual community gives us a false sense of security that we fit in with those we emulate. What it really does is to create a sense of deficiency in us, especially when we realise that our command of the foreign language is incomparable to that of native speakers. We may write in foreign languages to be understood by many. We can also learn other languages to learn about other cultures. We must never think our own languages are valueless. We need to develop pride in and value our own local languages.

Our history, our heritage

Monuments

Above are 3 of Zimbabwe’s most beautiful cultural heritage sites, the Chinhoyi Caves(top), Khami Ruins(middle) and Great Zimbabwe Ruins (bottom)-declared a world heritage site by UNESCO and the biggest man-made stone ruins on the continent

We need to know our history; who we are, where we are and where we are going including the stories of the men and women who have made our country what it is today. We may not have memoirs, letters or written documents narrating history but we do have the oral tradition of storytelling, which has passed folk-tales across generations. Story-telling can be used to pass down our history, recognising the limitations that come with it. We need to tell our own stories and give our own account of our history. We must preserve our monuments of national pride. We have done well in Zimbabwe to preserve cultural heritage sites such as the Great Zimbabwe, the Chinhoyi Caves and the Khami Ruins but we must do more to recall and record our history.

Another African proverb aptly put, “Until lions have their own historian, accounts of the hunt will always celebrate the hunter.” African history is predominantly told from the perspective of our former colonisers; books and maps are in colonial languages, mostly written by missionaries and mercenaries. As long as this persists, the account we have remains incomplete. We must tell our own history! We need to preserve our nests, as they will forever serve as reference points for future generations. As Malcom X said, “History is a people’s memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.”

 

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Zim human rights defender wants stronger institutions


**I am reposting this from an article written by the Newsday on my acceptance onto the YALI Fellowship Programme **

Pan-African human rights defender, Rumbidzai Dube, wants strong institutional structures to promote accountability and good governance.

27_Rumbidzai-Dube

 

She says the invitation to participate in the first ever Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Washington Fellowship in June will allow her to reflect on her work and life experiences in Zimbabwe while searching for innovative ways to expand and strengthen her work.

Her most recent work at the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) involves assessing the contribution of legislators to the democratic process. She tracks the MPs’ attendance, participation, representation of their constituencies and exercise of their oversight role over state institutions.

“I assumed the role of watching what our Parliament does, recognising that Parliament is a critical institution that has the capacity to ensure and guarantee state and government accountability. Putting members of parliament in the spotlight enhances their performance and encourages debate.”

Rumbidzai will spend six weeks at the University of Virginia/ William & Mary. “I will also increase my efforts in public legal education by launching a new website (www.allthingslegalzim.co.zw), a project that will simplify the law for the ordinary person.”

Forecasting her role during the Fellowship, she appears to be caught between a rock and a hard place. To her, the ambassadorial role foisted on her for being one of the 30 Zimbabwean young leaders that have been invited to participate in the Washington Fellowship presents a chance to brag but also to tell hard truths about Zimbabwe, she says. “It will be a delicate balancing act.”

As a legal researcher with a human rights non-governmental organisation and a human rights defender, she has seen the best there can be of the country and yet she cannot shy away from uncivil acts perpetrated against innocent individuals. She notes;

“Being an ambassador means defending my country’s honour and integrity, bragging about the good in it from the amazing people, the wonderful touristic sites, the abundant natural resources, with the biggest bragging point at the moment being that we are the most educated country with the highest literacy rate on the continent,” She adds, “on the other hand I will have to tell the hard truths of the indefensible and reckless acts of violence and corruption that I have witnessed and observed in my work as a human rights defender.”

Rumbidzai completed a law degree at the University of Zimbabwe in 2007. Three years later, she attained a LLM degree in Human Rights and Democratization in Africa from the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

Her career has spurned several international human rights bodies including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies in Egypt (2011) allowing her to witness, first-hand, the struggle for human rights and democratic transformation in Egypt and other North African countries during the Arab Spring.

She also worked briefly in 2010 with the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

She sees herself as a social justice advocate, passionate about using the power of the written word to inform, educate and transform societies.

She writes on her personal blog- MaDube’s Reflections- where she interrogates issues of the law as it relates to women, human rights, democratic governance, international relations, and global politics. She is an admitted member of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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