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Tinomudaishe Chinyoka: Maybe Mnangagwa is too good for our immature democracy

By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

We have a thing called ‘kuisa gozho mudura’ which refers to when someone gets too much freedom to enjoy the thing they were previously denied. I am beginning to think that President Mnangagwa, in his attempt to build the Zimbabwe we want, may have done exactly that.

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

I mean, is it possible that we have too much freedom? Is it possible that we probably needed it to come in incremental stages given how much we were deprived of it by Mugabe? The lawyer in me says no, but the citizen in me on the ground watching events as we approach our ejections says umm, perhaps?

We have people threatening to go and intimidate ZEC Commissioners ‘in their homes’ and nothing happens to them. We have people threatening to hold vigils at ZEC offices and nothing happens to them.

We have some Presidential candidate on TV saying the President is gay and sleeping with Chiwenga and nothing happens to him.

We have someone throw a grenade at the President, both Vice Presidents, the Chairperson of the ruling party (whose idea was it to have them all in one place?!) and the President says:

  • I think this is a political action by some aggrieved persons by the current democratic dispensation in the country. There is no need for us to say there will be a security clampdown or putting the country on security alert, no. This is a criminal act. It doesn’t dent the stability of the country….’
  • Let me assure you that in the region Zimbabwe is most stable in my view in terms of law and order. Investments are extremely safe and l don’t think anybody should worry about incidents at a rally.

I do not believe even for one second that Mugabe would have reacted in the same manner.

Now, we have someone blackmailing a judge to resign from a national commission, and nothing happens. Blackmail a judge! How did this happen?

Over the last few days, culminating in the public ‘revelation’ that Justice Chigumba is in a personal  relationship with a Cabinet Minister, we have witnessed the nation doing exactly what Jonathan Moyo wants: fixating on his agenda.

It was Jonathan Moyo of course that was behind the Baba Jukwa episode, taking confidential information from cabinet meetings and cabinet colleagues and feeding them to Edmund Kudzayi, the only person arrested over the fiasco. There are those who allege that Jonathan Moyo is gay, that he and Edmund had a long-standing relationship. But, I am not the one making that allegation. After all, Jonathan Moyo is married. To a woman. Then again Sir Elton John was once married. To a woman.

There are those who say that Edmund Kudzayi is gay, and was indeed sleeping with Jonathan Moyo. That these so-called revelations against the Judge are in fact an attempt by Jonathan Moyo to derail our elections and smear ED (if he wins) as an illegitimate winner because Justice Chigumba was conflicted. I do not know Edmund Kudzayi, so l do not know if he is gay or not. I have read stories of how he was always backbiting female colleagues at Zimpapers if they were dating a man he had a crush on. Like I said, I don’t know the man.

What I know is that in two-thousand-and-eighteen, this year, it shouldn’t matter who Justice Chigumba or Edmund Kudzayi or Jonathan Moyo is sleeping with. They are adults. They have human feelings and emotions, they crave companionship just like any other Mr/Mrs John HQ Public.

Edmund Kudzayi justifies his Jonathan Moyo-initiated attack on the judge’s credibility on the basis that there is a conflict of interest in the judge’s position because ‘if ZanuPF loses the election then her lover will be out of a job.’

As a justification for invading someone’s privacy, they don’t come more inane that this. You would struggle to find a more unconvincing reason for the public lynching of a Judge.

You see, Winston Chitando is Minister of Mines, but only until 30 July 2018. Whether Zanu PF wins by a landslide or not, he will be out of a job, on 30 July 2018. That is fact. For him to be Minister again, he will have to hope, like all the other MPs that Zanu PF might get, that the President appoints him minister again.

If we, as a nation, can’t see how this public lynching of a judge over something that personal and private by finding a tenuous conflict of interest where none exists, we do a disservice to our democracy.

As a nation, we should know that Justice Chigumba doesn’t have dictatorial powers, but works with other commissioners. Her position or views on issues is not final. She has no power of veto. Are the other commissioners including the men all sleeping with Chitando? How is her single vote going to affect the entire commission?

As a nation, we should be more outraged that this man called Edmund Kudzayi blackmailed and intimidated a sitting judge into resigning from a national office, and should be appalled by this attempt to extort a judge out of office, than we are that two adults have a relationship. And we should be proud of the fact that in Justice Chigumba we have a strong woman who will not be intimidated by criminals.

I hear people say ‘but he is married’, and I say, even if that is true, it still doesn’t give the whole nation the collective right to be upset on behalf of Mrs Chitando. Given how many people live in ‘small house’ relationships, given how many children come out of said unions, how many polygamous relationships we have, this sanctimonious retreat to an archaic moral purity smacks of hypocrisy.

The ‘public interest’ argument being advanced by Mr Edmund Kudzayi is of course a red herring: if the public had a right to know, it was not necessary to blackmail the judge to resign ‘or else…’. If the public had a right to know, if truly the election process has been affected by bias because of this relationship, then the public interest would have required publication without the need to coerce the judge to resign silently.

The truth is that there is no public interest reason why the judge’s private life had to be put into the public domain. As a friend said:

  • “I believe the vilification of anyone in order to achieve a certain goal is deplorable. I firstly do not see how a judge’s personal life affects her work unless if it is shown as a matter of substance. That is, if she is biased then we should start by establishing the bias and then after a factual finding on the bias, we can then move on to say why (a finding that may not be necessary if bias is established already for it doesn’t matter the cause as long as it has been established. I see a danger here of trying to find reasons for bias without first establishing the bias itself as a matter of fact. That then amounts to vilification in my view. Bias is factual ,  it can be established then followed by the insinuations for the bias. I believe it is wrong to start with the insinuations and therefrom conclude bias. If the ZEC chairperson is biased, let’s get the facts on the bias before giving reasons for it. Vilification of a person’s character in a bid to make a point to some of us seems to be a way of fighting without facts because if you have the facts then let’s have those as opposed to the vilification. The affair is being told to prove which allegations of bias? It seems to me this is just an attack on the person of the judge which is not being made in good faith to sustain an already existing allegation of bias.”

We are barely a week and a half from an election in which the President, the army, the war veterans, the ruling party youths and everyone’s piñata have said they will respect the outcome. The opposition senses defeat, and has resorted to believing even their worst enemy: Jonathan Moyo. That one that has an axe to grind with the current government.

It is a situation that calls for leadership. Nelson Chamisa, the chief beneficiary of this vilification of the judge, could have come up and said “we are not interested in the judge’s private life” and thus sent a cue to his supporters that this was an unfair attack on a respected public figure. That did not happen, and there could well be political advantages for him that l am unaware of, but that’s his choice.

Which leaves us where we started off, did ED bring us more freedoms than we were perhaps prepared for? Are we in danger of abusing the freedoms we now enjoy to the extent that we might even destroy our very democracy itself? Because when we attack our institutions such as ZEC for party political or personal gain, it is not people like Justice Chigumba who suffer.

It is our democracy itself. Pity

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a Harare based lawyer and a member of the ruling Zanu PF party.