By Moses Matenga
Suspected Zanu PF youths on Wednesday invaded the farm of war veteran and businessman Fred Mutanda, accusing him of teaming up with Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and Judge President Justice George Chiweshe to undermine President Emmerson Mnangagwa by opposing the extension of Chief Justice (CJ) Luke Malaba’s term of office.
The CJ has been mired in controversy since the High Court ruled that he ceased to hold the highest Judiciary office in the land when he turned 70 on May 15, and that according to the Constitution, he was precluded from benefitting from an amendment that had been relied on by the President to extend his term by five more years.
This week, Malaba turned up for work despite that the Judicial Service Commission had appointed Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza as acting CJ, a move critics say was illegal.
Mutanda joined the Young Lawyers Association of Zimbabwe in suing the government, the Judicial Service Commission, Attorney-General Prince Machaya and Malaba to fight the term extension which the courts ruled was illegal.
The freedom fighter said he was alerted of the invasion of his farm in Mutorashanga, Mashonaland West province, by the police.
“I didn’t even know until the police told me,” Mutanda told NewsDay last night.
“They (invaders) don’t have a story, but just came to invade my farm because they say I am against the government.
“They (government) don’t want to be accountable and by doing so, we are betraying what we fought for. You then ask yourself why then did I become a freedom fighter if such things continue to happen 41 years after independence.
“They are cowards and now accuse me of teaming up with Vice-President Chiwenga and Judge President Chiweshe in the application they say was undermining the President. I don’t even speak to those guys and have never even met them for a cup of tea,” the fuming Mutanda said, adding that the government should be accountable and stop fighting people for protecting constitutionalism.”
He added: “The court application was about protecting our Constitution.
“We have walked a long journey and since 1980 when the Lancaster House Constitution was adopted, we made a commitment that never again will there be any victims of any form of oppression and extra-judicial actions. We paid a heavy price for our liberation.
“Because of our experience with undemocratic and oppressive racist white minority regime, government and every State agency must respect and protect the Constitution.
“It is sad that they attack me and the Judiciary. It is about the rule of law and independence of the Judiciary, which ensures unwavering and uncompromising custody of our constitutional democracy and freedoms.
“Sadly, we are watching with disappointment and deep concern the degradation of our judicial independence. I have never believed that the tendencies of the white minority system would be as tenacious in shaping and influencing the character of our government.
“They just have to be accountable. I am not on anyone’s side and I am just following principles of what we fought for, including one-man, one-vote and the rule of law. Let us do things properly.
“Forty-one years after independence, look where we are now. Look where we are going. I bought my farm and you don’t invade private property just like that. It is just not on, you don’t do that. I am not fighting them; I am just telling them to do things the right way.”
Matanda said the country’s economy was in a sorry state because national leaders were focused on fighting people who speak out against wrongdoing by government officials.
“They have to be accountable and stop accusing people for issues they have nothing to do with. I don’t speak to Chiwenga and I have not spoken to Chiweshe even over a cup of tea. They say the VP sent me to undermine the President. What for?” he asked.
Mutanda added: “I am forced to give a personal assessment from my own experience. As a teenager, I sacrificed everything. I went to fight against oppression of the people of this country.
“I have taken this decision against the threats of the minister (Ziyambi Ziyambi) that undermine our Constitution. If I don’t criticise what I see is fundamentally wrong, I will not be satisfying my decision to be a freedom fighter and will be betraying thousands of our comrades who perished and remain unaccounted for.”
Zanu PF national spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said he was yet to get information on the matter.
“I am yet to get that, but maybe if you check with the police,” he said.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said he was yet to receive a report on the farm invasion.
“You can check with us tomorrow. We don’t have such a report at the moment,” he said.
In his affidavit, which formed the basis of the application together with the Young Lawyers Association, Mutanda said: “The Constitution before its amendment is such a delicious fruit, yet the older generation is not opening opportunities for those who we fought the liberation war for.
“This is most regrettable, it must be corrected. With great respect, I am disappointed that more than 41 years ago as a teenager, I, together with other comrades, suspended the enjoyment of our youth and went to the armed struggle voluntarily to fight oppression. I envisaged a country in which every citizen would enjoy the fruits of the liberation war.” News Day