Legal Issues

Innocent Gonese, MDC MP and Secretary for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs

The MDC is concerned over the utterances made by the Attorney-General, Johannes Tomana and Hon. Justice Rita Makarau, the Judge President (JP) of the High Court this week.

On Wednesday 14 January 2009, Tomana was quoted expressing how proud he is to being a Zanu PF functionary.

This is one of the high ranking officials who were recently appointed to the post of Attorney-General of Zimbabwe against MDC protestations.

Now the Attorney-General of Zimbabwe is a Zanu PF functionary! He has immense powers.

What just prosecution can there ever be for MDC activists and other human rights defenders who were abducted and are illegally detained on trumped up charges?

This is the same person whom the Judge President had congratulated in her speech only on Monday 12 January 2009.

Is there something common between the AG and the JP apart from the fact that they were both appointed by Robert Mugabe the "lame duck" "President" of Zimbabwe?

The MDC is alarmed at the AG's utterances. He is clearly a self-proclaimed partisan official. He even said in his interview that Jestina Mukoko was a threat to national security.

Meanwhile, in her speech on 12 January 2008, the JP made reference to parties who contested the 27 June 2008 elections. The MDC did not participate in any such elections. The MDC made it clear on 22 June 2008 that it could not participate in an election riddled with murder, violence, rape, fraud and other malpractices.

We hope the learned JP was not deliberately peddling the Zanu PF mantra that there was a contested or any other election on 27 June 2008.

Further, the MDC is concerned over the subtle threats made by the JP over certain lawyers who she alleges attack the Judiciary in the foreign media.

We have no doubt that the JP was referring to those lawyers who represent human rights defenders (HRD) and who for so long have been on the receiving end of the repressive regime under Zanu PF.

We fear that the JP's threats to the lawyers representing HRDs are a precursor to victimisation of these lawyers. It is also an excuse to deny the HRDs favourable orders and then seeking to be insulated against criticism.

The JP is not a god neither is any of the Judges of the High Court or Supreme Court.

Over the years from 2003 to date, innocent lawyers have been harassed including being physically attacked, arrested, detained, kidnapped and tortured.

They have also been abused in the State media left, right and centre but the JP said nothing.

Over the period 2000 to date and before, the State has engaged in every conceivable human rights abuse including mass murders, mass displacements, imprisonment of political opponents' etc but the JP said nothing.

0ver the years from 2000 to date, the State has made it its pastime to ignore Court orders willy-nilly but the JP has nothing.

After March 2008 elections, there was mass murder of MDC activists. No-one was arrested. The June 2008 elections were a fraud. The JP said nothing.

From October 2008 to date, the State kidnapped MDC activists and other human rights defenders, some are still missing. The JP said nothing.

At a time when the JP ought to have said enough is enough to excesses by the State, she chooses a "street fight" with lawyers defending and protecting HRDs. The JP could not have been worse "irrelevant". Now that the JP has removed her "glove", the public can only expect worse.

In an inevitable future MDC government, there will be no future for pliant and cowardly Judges who do not rise to the occasion and pamper to the whims of politicians. `

Society expects that in the face of the worst forms of State repression, lawyers and judges remain the last legion of people's hopes and aspirations.

Members of the public must feel confident that in a fight with the mighty State, they can always run to the Courts and seek protection. Not to rush to judges who public threaten lawyers.

At a time when the JP was threatening lawyers in Harare, the deputy Chief Justice was waxing about the SADC Tribunal ruling in Bulawayo. He chose the occasion to be an advocate of his own Court to attack the SADC Tribunal.

We even doubt whether the deputy Chief Justice was properly quoting the SADC Tribunal ruling.

The deputy Chief Justice needed not mourn so much. The SADC ruling on the commercial farmers made it clear that the local Judges had an interest in the issue of farms as they were beneficiaries.

This is what happens when local Courts are compromised, citizens look elsewhere for redress.

Unfortunately, most citizens cannot afford such redress. Was the deputy Chief Justice saying "come to my Court and I will dismiss your case, thereafter shut-up"?

No sane person is expected to do such a thing. Unless and until the Supreme Court starts executing its mandate as the last bastion of Court redress, less and less people will appear in it seeking recourse.

We wonder how many more such partisan appointments are going to be made by Mugabe before a proper Government is formed.

We want to assure the nation that in a future MDC government there will be room for partisan appointments of public officials, particularly such powerful persons such as the AG and Judges.

Even if the appointments were to continue, the MDC will not hesitate to institute International Commissions of Enquiry to look into the suitability of certain officials including the desirability of their continued holding of public offices including judicial ones.

It may not be now but history will absolve us.

Hon. Innocent Gonese

MDC Secretary for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs