HARARE – A month after Emmerson Mnangagwa assumed Zimbabwe’s presidency, trivial arrests that characterised former president Robert Mugabe’s era continue.
Charges that range from criminal nuisance and undermining the authority of the president – which were pressed against people after saying or doing anything that offended Mugabe, Zanu PF or his family — are still in force.
Recently, ex-Cabinet minister Iganatius Chombo, former party youth leaders Kudzanai Chipanga and Munyaradzi Hamandishe were arrested and charged with criminal nuisance after wearing Zanu PF regalia.
According to the State outline, the trio, who were members of the Zanu PF Generation 40 faction — which rivalled the Lacoste one — that was booted out of the ruling party during the military takeover which led to Mugabe’s resignation, had “connived” to commit the offence.
“They had no right to act in the manner they did,” read the outline, referring to wearing regalia that was inscribed ED and Kutonga kwaro.
The offence they were charged with has a provision for a fine that can be paid at the police station but the State’s resources had to be used to achieve political goals.
Analysts have slammed such arrests which weigh on the country’s resources and infringe on individual rights.
Legal expert and opposition People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said this resembled that Zimbabwe is still run under the same old Mugabe system.
“It is such little actions that show that ‘Mugabeism’ was a state of mind and it has remained in the minds of the police and the prosecutors,” Mafume said.
“If they chased corruption and stealing with the same zeal we would be somewhere. Wearing caps can’t be surely the biggest threat that this country is facing, it is theft, corruption and rising prices. This is a joke of monumental proportions.”
Another typical case was of activist Gustav Kativhu, who was charged with undermining the authority of the president or alternatively disorderly conduct after he held a placard inscribed that Mnangagwa was a murderer at the Zanu PF congress.
Although Mnangagwa has sworn to uphold the Constitution and rule of law, charges like Section 33 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act still remains in force, even when the State has never scored a success in handling such cases.
Another lawyer and former legislator, Job Sikhala, said: “It is clear that concentration on trivialities has become the preoccupation of the new dispensation.
“Arrests of Chombo and others are now seen as vindictiveness as other well-known criminals have been rewarded with retention in the government.”
“It is becoming apparent that these prosecutions are used as persecution against the vanquished. The spoils of the defective victory are exposed for what they are…vindictiveness against the defeated in a factional fight,” Sikhala said.
Spokesperson of the Morgan Tsvangirai led MDC Obert Gutu said arrests must be impartial and not selective.
“We call for a system that will arrest all criminals regardless of their political and/or factional affiliation. We know that they are very big criminals both sides of the Zanu PF factional divide. These criminals must be promptly apprehended without fear or favour,” he said.
“In fact, if there are criminals in the opposition political parties’ ranks, they should also be arrested.
“The law must take its course against all those persons who breach it. That is the only way in which the scourge of corruption can be effectively thwarted.”