Tendai Biti has successfully challenged the last week’s ban of all street protests by senior Police Officer.
“Following the suspension of the ban on Wednesday, Biti said Justice Priscilla Chigumba’s ruling was “a brave judgement that asserts the independence of the courts,” said the New Zimbabwe report.
Yes the Judge was brave, given that only a few days ago Mugabe publicly denounced the courts for “recklessness” in allowing street protests to take place. Recent protests had led to the burning and looting of private and public property and the usual running battles between the Police, armed to the teeth with tear-gas, water cannons and truncheons, and the protesters throwing stones and blocking roads with whatever was handy.
Still, I would say describing the judgement as proof of “the independence” of the judiciary is being politically naïve and premature, to say the least, for three reasons:
1) It is factually incorrect to even suggest that Zimbabwe’s judiciary is independent because there are many times in the past when the judiciary’s independence has been found wanting. Take the case when Didymus Mutasa tried to challenge his legality of dismissal from Zanu PF; Mugabe said he would want to see the “Judge who would try the case” and the case was never brought before the bench. Tendai Biti would be very familiar with many MDC election results court challenges, some dating back to 2005, which are still pending. I stand corrected, but I know on not even one single case where Mugabe or Zanu PF are the complainant that has ever been delayed for more than a few weeks much less kicked into the tall grass and forgotten
2) Now that Mugabe has his brownie points in the bag – even the opposition agree the country’s judiciary is “independent” – now prizes for saying what is now going to happen next! The regime will step up the pressure of the judiciary to ban future protests and rallies – right! It is for the Police and not the Judges to ensure all public protests are adequately policed to stop the troublemakers, the looters, etc. In the past Zanu PF has deployed the overzealous war veterans or its party’s youths to start the violence. Indeed Zanu PF Youths have already said they want the Police to step aside and allow them to deal with the protesters. The party has already promised many of these thugs housing stands and they are keen as mustard to earn the stands! y are But given that the Police is NOT independent , not even the political greenhorn, Tendai Biti, would dispute this; not even the “brave” Justice Chigumba would dare challenge any protest ban after that.
3) The banning of the protests was illegal and by lifting the ban Justice Chigumba was not putting to right a wrong; she was not doing anyone a favour but rather doing her duty; the right to peaceful protest is a fundamental right and not a privilege. Mugabe has become a grandmaster at giving with the one hand and making a big song and dance about that and yet takeaway even more with the other. He has never tires of reminding us of his heroic sacrifice in the war of independence but has conveniently ignore that he is yet to hold free and fair elections; ignored that corruption has now become so rampant that $15 billion is looted from Marange and no one is ever arrested; etc. Naïve people like Tendai Biti are not doing the nation any favours by making a big song and dance when the regime grant us back our right and thus, unwittingly, giving the impression that it was a privilege that the tyrant can take away again under some new contrived pretext!
By lifting the illegal protest ban Justice Chigumba did NOT prove that Zimbabwe’s judiciary is now “independent”. Are sure you will not be eating your words over this as you have done so many times already but never learn!
We have to implement all the democratic reforms designed to end the unhealthy tyrannical strangle hold Mugabe has over the judiciary, Police, ZEC, etc. Only then can we talk of Zimbabwe having an independent judiciary, Police, ZEC, etc.; confident it is so today, tomorrow, next year and for generations to come.