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Hopewell Chin'ono

Editorials

A sad day for justice

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PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s one-party state project suffered an embarrassing setback this week when the High Court empatically quashed charges levelled against journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition MDC Alliance leaders Fadzayi Mahere and Job Sikhala.

Justice Jester Charewa threw out the criminal proceedings. More importantly, the judge declared that section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (publishing or communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the state) is no longer part of Zimbabwean law.

They were represented by Harrison Nkomo from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Where in the world have you ever seen people being arrested under a non-existent law?

Mahere says when she was locked up at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison she contracted Covid-19 and tickbite fever. She could have died.

In a civilised country that upholds the rule of law, the chief of police, Prosecutor-General and the magistrate who maliciously averred that the trio had a case to answer would all resign in shame. Not in Zimbabwe. Impunity rules the roost.

But there must be severe consequences for the rogue conduct of public officers who should know better.

It is unacceptable that whenever the victims of gross injustice sue the state for damages, the long-suffering taxpayer is forced to shoulder the financial burden. Impoverished taxpayers are paying through the nose for the criminal behaviour of officials who are dabbling in shameful politics instead of doing their job.

This must stop. There has to be personal liability for inflicting constitutional injury on law-abiding citizens.

In the ongoing abuse of power, institutional morality is important but so, too, is individual morality. Partisan police officers, prosecutors and magistrates who aid and abet human rights crimes will have no one to blame when their day of reckoning arrives.

Officials in the justice system have important constitutional responsibilities. They must be diligent and disciplined in the pursuit of justice. Any conduct which runs counter to these expectations impinges the integrity, credibility and dignity of the justice delivery system–a crucial pillar of the state.

When the rule of law and due process are flouted in the alarming manner we are witnessing in this country, nobody should be surprised to wake up to a Hobbesian nightmare. Life becomes short, nasty and brutish — not only for the victims but also the perpetrators.

United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean law lecturer Alex Magaisa said it is “diabolical” to arrest people under a law that does not exist. He rightly asserted that a regime that relies on arbitrary power cannot make a legitimate claim to be applying the rule of law.

The rot in the justice system, across the board, is unsettling.

The partisan police have been reduced to a pawn and a cat’s paw by Zanu PF elites. This has eroded public confidence in the rule of law.

The Prosecutor-General has a duty to enforce and defend the laws and constitution of this country. The practice of persecution by prosecution is despicable.

Magistrates and judges who think they can hide behind judicial robes to facilitate political oppression are giving justice a bad name.

The sacrosanct doctrine of the separation of powers is torn to shreds when the justice system lends itself to sinister political lawfare.

The time has come for Zimbabweans to resolutely oppose those intent on reducing this country into a tragic society where the accused are considered guilty unless proven innocent.

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