By Andrew Kunambura
My wife took off after our first child…Oh my kind of rambling life wasn’t her kind of style…So I kind of toughed up and learned not to feel…They started calling me the man of steel…
These are the lyrics in legendary American singer Hiram William’s timeless classic, Man of Steel.
Popularly known as Hank Williams, the singer lived a short troubled life which is reflected in some of his hit songs, dying at just 29 in 1953 after suffering drug and alcohol-induced heart failure.
Perhaps, if the Daily News on Sunday had a way, it would recommend this song to disgraced former Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa to play on his long flight back home from Washington DC, United States where he was recalled from a meeting of global finance ministers because he was no longer responsible for that portfolio.
President Robert Mugabe had allowed Chinamasa to travel to the US capital on government business just days before he demoted him to the lacklustre new ministry of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation in an extremely humiliating fashion.
The meeting was organised by global finance capital organisations, The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
He did not even have the chance to attend the high profile meeting, which means Zimbabwe will have no representative there.
With that demotion, Chinamasa, who has fought hard and tough through the financial storms since he assumed the reigns of an empty Treasury in 2013, became the laughing stock of Zimbabwe social media crazed populace as they have boundlessly poked fun at him over the appointment.
He has been described as the minister of Whatsapp and as Whatsapp chief groups’ administrator.
On any social media, people warn each other to exercise caution because Chinamasa would be watching; mock press statements by him have been coined to sheer amusement.
In other nations, such demotions would lead to ministers tendering resignation letters.
But this is Zimbabwe, and Chinamasa is a man of steel, moulded by a long history of public humiliation to the point of he must have surely learnt not to feel.
He has a long history chequered with public humiliation, which this article will henceforth trace.
Chinamasa earned his first ministerial job in 2002 when he was appointed minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, and his public humiliation began in earnest.
In a case recorded in the Zimbabwe Law Report, Chinamasa’s first major task as Justice minister was to table the General Laws Amendment Bill which sought to amend a number of laws, including the Electoral Act.
Zimbabwe at the time had a unicameral Parliament. The bill went through the first and second reading stages as well as the committee stage but failed to sail through the House after MDC legislators voted overwhelmingly against, capitalising on the fact that Zanu PF MPs had not come to the House.
For any ordinary bill to pass, it requires a simple majority favour of those present and voting.
However, after the defeat, Chinamasa brought back the bill again, purporting to have suspended the Standing Order 127 of the Standing Orders and Rules which prohibits ministers from bringing back defeated bills into Parliament during the same session.
This time, Zanu PF had mobilised its MPs who turned up in their numbers and overwhelmingly voted in its favour.
It therefore passed and was signed into law by the president.
But the then MDC Harare East legislator, Tendai Biti, filed a Supreme Court application challenging the constitutionality of the process.
His main argument was that since Zimbabwe was a constitutional democracy, Parliament had failed to follow the correct procedures when purporting to pass the bill and therefore the law was invalid to the extent that it was not consistent with constitutional provisions.
The then Supreme Court judge, Ron Abraham, announced the bench’s majority ruling, which said Chinamasa had undermined the Constitution by suspending the Standing Order number 127, and therefore the law was declared unconstitutional.
Interestingly, the current Zimbabwe Chief Justice Luke Malaba who was on the bench agreed with the majority ruling that Standing Orders could not be unilaterally suspended since they were a creature of the Constitution, but appeared to read the Standing Orders differently and decided that no vote was necessary at the third reading. He, however, did not explain his judgment, according to the law report record.
Chinamasa’s second humiliation did not take too long to come.
In July of the same year, he had been found guilty on two counts of contempt of court relating to his criticism of a court verdict and failure to file legal papers in respect of an arrest warrant issued against him by former High Court judge, Fergus Blackie.
This marked the height of a devastating dispute between government and the judiciary which intensified when courts condemned the invasion of white-owned farms by Zanu PF supporters led by frustrated veterans of the 1970s war of liberation.
“We will respect judges where the judgments are true judgments,” said Mugabe at the time, describing Blackie as “a judge who sits alone in his house and says this one is guilty of contempt, that judgment should never be obeyed.”
Three years later, Chinamasa was caught up in a bribery storm and was hauled before the Rusape Magistrate’s Court on allegations of trying to bribe one James Kaunye, a State witness in the assault case against a supporter of former national security minister Didymus Mutasa.
The assault charge followed rows in the ruling Zanu PF party over candidate selection for 2005 parliamentary elections. Chinamasa was, however, cleared of the charges.
In July this year, Chinamasa had to eat humble pie after Parliament vehemently refused to ratify his decision to fire Auditor-General, Mildred Chiri under the guise that she had exhausted her two terms.
Chiri, who has in recent years exposed serious financial misdemeanours in government which unsettled authorities intolerant to accountability, has since been reinstated.
So, as Chinamasa assumes her new roles at the lowly, obscure ministry which Mugabe has described as a rat trapping device, he probably needs to be reminded that whichever policies he shall introduce shall surely attract public scrutiny since the cyberspace has become the playground for many unemployed Zimbabwean who mostly use it for thrill.
And, maybe, it might not be too long after all to recommend the song Man of Steel to him as he faces long flights to China, North Korea and such countries to study how those nations have regulated the stubborn cyberspace as prescribed by his principal.
Good luck, Patrick Anthony Chinamasa, and oh by the way, there is a lot of work waiting for you in the party to do with the coming special congress, we hear it requires special legal skills. Daily News