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You said you are a listening President, so listen....

01 Jul 2020 at 07:24hrs | Views
Dear Mr President,

This is my first open letter to you Sir, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and I sincerely hope that it is received in good faith. You promised to be a listening President and I am putting your word to the test.
A lot has happened since November 2017 when you took office. I will be the first to admit that at the time, I welcomed the end of the reign of the late former President Robert Mugabe and celebrated your arrival on the scene. I was optimistic that the worst had ended, and a new season had begun.

Mr President, Sir, I gave you the benefit of doubt when you started and articles I penned in 2017 and early 2018 are evidence of this. I am not a card-carrying member of any party (I doubt I ever will but that's for another day) and I don't represent any party.

All I am is a Zimbabwean patriot who loves his country deeply and wants the best for all its people regardless of race, tribe or political affiliation. All I am is a Zimbabwean who wants our country to flourish. I believe in the potential of our people and the greatness we hold collectively.

Unfortunately, these aspirations have not been fulfilled and it now seems that this will be nothing, but a dream. Since you have assumed office, you have clamped down on dissent in ways I previously thought to be unimaginable. You have used the "insult laws" (the charge of undermining the President) more than the former President

did in his 37-year rule.

Several unconstitutional decisions have been made by your office Sir and these undermine the rule of law and the supremacy of our Constitution. Your Cabinet and government in general, have on many occasions ignored constitutional obligations and operated with impunity.

I hoped that your Presidency would be a win for constitutionalism and respect for its provisions and abiding by the duties set out in it. Again, disappointedly, this has not been the case.

Mr President, Sir, we possibly have one of the most transformative and comprehensive Constitutions in the world, but this counts for nothing if its provisions are not implemented. Zimbabwe has morphed into a highly policed State characterised by excesses of the security apparatus of the State.

The Constitution specifically requires the creation of a body that independently checks the powers of the police, but seven years later, this body has not been operationalised. It is the mandate of your government to ensure that appropriate legislation operationalising this body is tabled before Parliament, yet this has not been done.

Mr President, I applauded your move to establish the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry into the August 1, 2018 post-election protest shootings, but its findings have been ignored. There are constitutional reasons why this would be important, but it suffices to note that you failed to uphold these in this regard, and it was a mere window-dressing exercise. In this sense, Mr President, Sir, you have let us down.

Mr President, Sir, you have the opportunity to redefine the Presidency and a chance to change the narrative by implementing the Constitution. Our Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that protests are a legitimate form of freedom of expression in our democracy and went on to invalidate provisions of the Public Order and Security Act on this basis, but this has not changed the conduct of the State towards protests.

As we move forward as a nation, we need to respect that our Constitution creates these freedoms and these are to be enjoyed by the citizenry, even where protestors are to show dissatisfaction with the State.

As a listening President, you should celebrate that people are expressing how they feel about your governance and take lessons from it. There is no need to deploy the security might of the State to crush these as it only gives the impression that your government is intolerant to divergent views, which would contradict your previous pronouncements that this is a new dispensation.

Justice Rita Makarau made an important observation in the Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment & 3 Others v Saunyama NO case, where she reasoned that protests were not only a form of expression, but also provided a form of venting for the public. When people are allowed to vent, this helps reduce tensions and escalated action. Please don't stifle this vent. Instead, open it and allow a breath of fresh air to engulf the nation.

You may have already noticed this, but Zimbabweans are peaceloving and law-abiding citizens. We understand violent protests are unlawful and thus not worthy of constitutional protection, but there should be less State intervention in protests that are peaceful and directed at expressing genuine grievances.

Paul Kaseke is a legal adviser, commentator, policy analyst and former law lecturer with the Wits Law School and Pearson Institute of Higher Education (formerly Midrand Graduate Institute). He writes in his personal capacity.

Source - newsday
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