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Opposition offenders are no special citizens

13 Apr 2021 at 11:46hrs | Views
Following the recent sentencing of MDC Alliance activist, Makomborero Haruzivishe to an effective 14 months in prison for inciting public violence, there were mixed reactions from across the political divide. The opposition, its lawyers and sympathisers predictably criticised the sentence using the usual terms like persecution and lawfare but nothing is further from the truth. Progressive citizens, on the other hand, praised the courts for dealing with the lawlessness streak which has become a permanent feature of the opposition. 

Haruzivishe's lawyer, Kossam Ncube from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) inanely claimed that his client had been convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence. Most opposition and anti-Government elements ran away with Ncube's argument claiming that the activist had been convicted on the basis of a whistle he sounded on the streets, which they claimed was the one that courts had interpreted as a sign to invite other activists to protests violently on the streets of Harare.

Lawyers such as Ncube and opposition politicians should know that inciting public violence is an offence at law. Whether Haruzivishe winked, nodded or whistled to incite other excitable yobs around him at the time is immaterial. Ncube's lame claim that the court used a technicality to convict Haruzivishe is therefore without solid basis. If anyone is trying to depend on technicalities, it is him and his client.

The MDC Alliance swiftly issued a statement condemning Haruzivishe's imprisonment. The political outfit condemned what it described as "clampdown on dissent" and alleged "abuse of courts to punish innocent people." Although the statement was crafted by the faction's secretary for welfare, Maureen Kademaunga, the organisation teems with lawyers, who should know that no one – not even a lawyer – can pronounce a suspect as innocent except a magistrate or judge.

Kademaunga shamelessly claimed that Haruzivishe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Joana Mamombe Tinashe Bwanaisa, Rakesh Marufu, Collin Paison, Tafara Mafunde, Farai Chidziwa, and Trust Nyamado were political prisoners. The MDC Alliance enjoys made up victimhood. Chimbiri and Mamombe are serial law breakers who have known cases that are pending before the courts. The last six, like Haruzivishe, are convicted criminals, who participated in the violent and destructive protests of January 2019, which were organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) for the MDC Alliance.

Various businesses lost hundreds of thousands of United States Dollars in looted stock and damaged infrastructure. As no grievance justifies such mindless destruction and economic sabotage, nothing should justify calling the perpetrators political prisoners. The world has to know that the prisoners in question committed crimes for which they should atone by serving time behind bars. They cannot have their cake and it too. They cannot destroy businesses and livelihoods belonging to innocent Zimbabweans striving to sustain their lives and those of their families and expect to be let off the hook so that they can commit more crimes. Kademaunga and her faction should know that opposition members are not a special species of citizens, who should do as they please. If anything, as politicians, they should lead exemplary lives.

The MDC Alliance tried its luck by using the statement to appeal to the United Nations to investigate its claims that its most notorious activists Chimbiri, Mamombe and Netsai Marova were allegedly abducted in May last year by unknown Sate agents. Kademaunga and her fellow MDC Alliance leaders know that the UN has no time for such political child's play. All they were trying to do was to play a political kid by "reporting" Government to the UN. It was just an effort calculated at tarnishing the images of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Government. This is because the UN knows that this country has laws, law enforcement agents and competent courts of law whose role is to deliver justice not just to the convicted but also to the victims of their crime.
The UN and the whole world know that even the US, which the opposition looks up to as a role model of democracy and freedoms, does not let criminals like Haruzivishe and the January 2019 protests convicts roam its streets scot-free. It has so far arrested over 250 participants of the 6 January 2021 Capitol Building insurrection and is at various stages of prosecuting them. The Republicans, who are at the receiving end of the prosecutions, have never complained that they are being subjected to lawfare as Kademaunga and her colleagues claim here day and night.

The imprisonment of Haruzivishe is not without precedent even in the US. One of the insurrectionists, Jenna Ryan, a Texas real estate broker, who flew to Washington to join the attack on the US Capitol, was quoted by The Guardian newspaper on 16 January this year after her arrest contemplating approaching former US President, Donald Trump for pardon citing that, "I'm facing a prison sentence." She did not criticise the police that arrested her or the courts that were likely to give a custodial sentence.

Most of the armchair "lawyers" who were criticising Haruzivishe's imprisonment, were querying whether or not Government was criminalising demonstrations. The right to protest or demonstrate is enshrined in the national charter as a right but no right is absolute. The MDC Alliance has a very chequered record when it comes to protests. If one's right to protest infringes on the rights of other people such as businesspeople it cannot be allowed to go ahead. The MDC Alliance conveniently "forgets" to distinguish between normal peaceful protests and its brand of protests, which 99 percent of the time are violent and destructive.

While Zimbabwe and the UK are different jurisdictions, according that country's  Section 14 Notice of the Public Order Act 1986, "if individuals fail to follow the police instructions, they can be arrested and face the risk of criminal prosecution." When Haruzivishe was arrested on 20 February 2020 in central Harare he was inciting a protest against the police and he resisted arrest. In the UK, as happened to him in Zimbabwe, he would be arrested for failing to follow police instructions so nothing is very amiss about his arrest, conviction and imprisonment.

Going forward, if the MDC Alliance wishes to enjoy the respect of progressive Zimbabweans, it should not condone and uphold lawlessness the way its secretary general, Chalton Hwende did when Haruzivishe locked up Impala Motor Spares employees in their shop in Harare in October last year.

It should impress upon its excitable activists such as Chiredzi Rural District Council councillor, Gilbert Mutubuki and the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) leader, Takudzwa Ngadziore that there are consequences for all the lawlessness that they indulge in, in the name of fighting ZANU PF and Government. It should teach the youths that they are not special citizens. They should know that describing the criminal acts carried out in the name of fighting ZANU PF and Government for the MDC Alliance as the "the struggle" does not make the perpetrators immune to the laws of Zimbabwe.
The choice is for the MDC Alliance leadership to make whether to lose more of the formation's criminally-inclined youths to prison or correct them. No Government enjoys jailing its citizens but the choice of avoiding this undesirable situation lies squarely with the perpetrators and those around them.

Source - Nobleman Runyanga
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