By Tendai Kamhungira
If fame and fortune could buy freedom, then the likes of former Zanu PF Bikita West MP Munyaradzi Kereke and Independent End Time Message church founder Robert Martin Gumbura would be walking scot-free today.
Their incarceration, however, has changed the face of prison, which is dominated by the ordinary unknown members of society, most of whom committed offences to eke out a living.
For the two, whose transgressions are similar, it was not about survival.
They committed rape.
Their cases are one of the few in recent years involving prominent, rich and powerful people in society, who have been tried, convicted and thrown behind bars.
They are colourful characters that have lived large — like kings — as they could get all they wanted by the snap of a finger.
However, while the two had the fame and fortune that many can only desire and yearn for, the weight of their cases drowned them.
It’s not about fame or fortune, prominent Harare lawyer, Tonderai Bhatasara, told the Daily News on Sunday.
It is about justice, he said.
He said all cases are treated fairly in terms of the facts that are brought before the courts.
“When cases are brought before the courts, the presiding officer is enjoined by law to consider the facts. There is no basis for the presiding officer to consider the social standing of an individual — his or her economic or political standing.
“The law is supposed to be blind. It does not consider whether one is poor or rich and this is what the law is and what it ought to be,” Bhatasara said.
Gumbura recently lost his appeal against his sentence, which has made sure that he remains behind bars to serve the full 40-year prison term imposed by the Harare Magistrates’ Courts.
High Court judges Edith Mushore and Charles Hungwe dismissed his appeal after ruling that the clergyman had been correctly convicted.
“In this matter, I was not impressed by the appellant (Gumbura)’s defence. As far as I concern myself, appellant is a personification of what professor Geoff Feltoe refers to as ‘the evil of abuse’…appellant is a depraved individual who degraded and objectified his victims. He is clearly the stuff that nightmares are made of.
“In my view the court a quo correctly convicted appellant in counts, three, seven, eight, nine and 10. In all the circumstances of the above, the court orders as follows: the appeal against conviction on all counts is dismissed,” Mushore said, in a ruling that Hungwe agreed to.
On the other hand, Kereke — a former top Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe official — is still struggling with his appeal, in which he seeks to quash his conviction and 10-year jail term.
Commenting on the matter, another Harare lawyer, Marufu Mandevere, said the courts should and cannot be swayed by people’s positions in society and grant them freedom against the evidence presented before them.
“The courts should not consider the position of a person but the evidence before it. But when considering sentences, these people with money and who use their positions to commit offences may receive harsh sentences.
“For example, in Kereke’s case, the court considered that he was rich and had children in his custody that he went on to abuse. These may be considered as aggravating circumstances. But the courts can also be lenient to some people that steal maybe because they wanted something to eat,” Mandevere said.
Kereke and Gumbura’s tales are sorry narratives of heroes that turned into zeroes.
Their glory to gory and fall from grace is nothing short of how life changes in a split second.
By any standard, they led comfortable, luxurious lives, basking in the glory of fame and riches, with even capacity to get any woman they desired.
Kereke, a member of the strict Johane Marange apostolic sect, drove state-of-the-art cars, amid claims that he owned countless houses in Harare’s leafy suburbs.
He also owned a hospital equipped with advanced equipment, a farm in Chinhoyi and had a substantial shareholding in a funeral services company.
The businessman told the court that he was married to three wives and was father to several children.
He was powerful.
Just like him, Gumbura’s life was a “movie tale” as he led a church, had more than 15 wives and several children.
In mitigation, he told the court that he had 10 houses and 12 cars, among some of his riches.
Another attorney who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday on condition of anonymity said no matter how rich and famous a person is, even to the extent of hiring the best lawyer, as long as the evidence is overwhelming, it’s a one-way ticket to jail.
“One thing that is important to understand is that money can be used to find good legal representation but that does not always translate to an acquittal,” he said. Daily News