AN academic publication has flagged the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the country’s judiciary for being partisan and willing functionaries of Zanu PF, cautioning that the conflation needs to be addressed ahead of the 23 August elections.
The Journal of Democracy, Governance and Human Rights in Zimbabwe was put together by Justice Alfred Mavedzenge, who is the programmes director of Africa Judges and Jurists Forum and a former constitutional law academic and a legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists, Africa regional programme.
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum director and human rights law expert Musa Kika was also involved in compiling the research.
“There is a conflation of the party constituting government, and the government. This is deliberate and consequential. Impartiality of the courts, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) especially must be insisted upon, in terms of standards laid down in the constitution and in statutes.
“The courts in particular have been used to endorse questionable electoral outcomes and amendments to the constitution have been effected to ensure a tight control over who gets appointed to the bench and how they behave, rendering the courts beholding to the President and the executive.
“This is especially important because elections in Zimbabwe have traditionally produced contested outcomes, which end up in courts for determination, especially presidential polls. The use of state institutions to support, resource, serve, save, and protect party interests must be eschewed. This should be addressed through non-partisan and meritorious appointments to bureaucratic and other government offices (as opposed to cadre deployment) and addressing patronage and corruption,” reads the report.
The academics urged Zimbabweans to raise the economic and political cost of bad elections in light of the brazen conflation between Zanu PF and the key arms of the state such as police and the judiciary.
“Political parties, observers, and CSOs must document and spotlight issues of concern, including at the international level. With attention to Zimbabwe having long diminished, it is important to resuscitate the focus on Zimbabwe as a regional and international agenda item with clear tangible evidence of the challenges with the country’s elections.
“Though Sadc has been less-than-effective, it must be engaged and put on the spot. Though the AU will defer to Sadc, it must still be approached (as with the UN). This helps put political pressure on the government, which does have an interest in being perceived as legitimate. On economic cost, it must start with highlighting the opportunity costs of bad elections and the political risk premium that bad elections place on Zimbabwe,” reads the document.
Just last week, 18 civil society organisations from different parts of the world petitioned President Emmerson Mnangagwa and key figures in government over the growing trend of judicial persecution as well as abuse of the legal system, commonly known as lawfare.
They cited the case of Zengeza West legislator Job Sikhala, who has been in detention for more than a year, as the height of persecution. Sikhala, a human rights lawyer and senior member of the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change, has been remanded at Chikurubi Maximum Prison since 14 June 2022.
He is charged with allegations of obstruction of the course of justice and public violence, which he denies. The report also cited cases of judicial “persecution through prosecution” of Jacob Ngarivhume, Hopewell Chin’ono, and Tsitsi Dangarembga.
Also petitioned in the same document sent to Mnangagwa were Chief Justice Luke Malaba, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and Acting Prosecutor-General Nelson Mutsonziwa.
The civil society organisations included NamRights Inc (Namibia), Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (South Africa), Restoration of Human Rights (United Kingdom) Zimbabwe Diaspora for Democracy, Inc (United States of America) Political Prisoners in Africa (Sadc) and Ditshwanelo also known as The Botswana Centre for Human Rights.
There was also Mozambique Human Rights Defenders Network, Centre for Democracy and Development (Mozambique), Civic Space Network (Sadc) and the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network.
Local civil society organisations who were behind the petition included the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa, Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust, Zimbabwe Organisation for Youth In Politics, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice Trust and Kwekwe Residents Association and Harare Residents Trust.