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Marry Chiwenga prosecution shows leadership crisis

23 Dec 2019 at 15:41hrs | Views
The day Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga decided to press criminal charges against his wife, Marry, was the day when an otherwise domestic standoff became a national issue. Precisely because this matter is a big statement on the political leadership we are burdened with.

Marry will next week spend probably her most miserable Christmas in the past 38 years she has lived. After her arrest last week, she has been remanded in custody to December 30, facing a slew of charges that include trying to murder her then ill husband, externalising a million greenbacks and fraudulently attempting to solemnise her marriage while the VP was critically ill.

In her legal hurl-back at the court, Marry says all the charges are fabricated. For her, the VP concocted the charges in order to gain unfair advantage in their ongoing divorce proceedings. Her prosecution will press poor Marry against the wall and force her to make reluctant concessions. That's the implication in this line of defence.

Well, Marry remains innocent till the courts prove her guilty. In other words, whether she is guilty or innocent is a matter for the official courts to decide.

But, quite frankly, the court of public opinion travels ahead of the official courts all the time. It has already ruled that the attempted murder charge is a huge bag of goo. And it has reserved judgment on the externalisation and marriage fraud bits. So, if the court of public opinion had its way by the end of the day, Marry would be out there, as free as a lark, with her children.

Don't undervalue the power of the court of public opinion. They say matters that are pending in the official courts are sub-judice. Which means you must keep your mouth shut as the judges and magistrates do their work and use factual evidence to prove things beyond reasonable doubt. But the law was born an ass, and born an ass, always an ass, according to the popular court of public opinion.

The judges can proceed as they like, as far as that is possible, considering that the politicians are always making them sweat under those funny medieval wigs.

After all, the sub-judice principle is also an ass, perhaps the thickest of asses. It's unconstitutional because it violates provisions on freedom of expression and conscience. Well, freedom of assembly at the court of public opinion too. Judges and magistrates must rely on hard facts. That means opinions and utterances made in the Zupco buses, kombis and bars mustn't matter at all.

The verdict is already out. We have a rotten leadership, simple. That's how the court of public opinion sees things. Here is why. First, the Marry issue shows that we are suffering a vindictive leadership. The timing of the charges says it all. It's now common cause that Chiwenga and Marry are no longer the best of friends, if they ever were. The VP wants out because of things that must have stuck to the bedroom but are now subject to public speculation. Whether Marry is going to be found guilty or innocent doesn't matter for the court of public opinion.

The court of public opinion thinks that the VP brought up the charges as a way of fixing Marry because the two now have issues. That's the narrative you get in the Zupco kombis and bars. Worse, the court of public opinion strongly suspects that Chiwenga is abusing his office to settle personal scores. And it's not amused by that. Because, you see, it's saying if the VP can abuse his office in a matter relating to his wife, what will happen if he decides to settle scores with people he doesn't even know?

He has kids with Marry. Never mind the fact that the court of public opinion is already claiming that the VP has doubts over his paternity of the three kids.

In this age of fake news and faking social media, it's to be expected. Officially, the kids are his. That means there is a bond, an intimacy, between the VP and Marry that will survive beyond their graves. Imagine what is going through the kids' minds and hearts right now. They are having nightmares, literally, during the day and when they go to bed. They may not say it to anyone, but they are going through a very tormenting phase. And that's the kind of torment they will live with for a long, long time. They will grow up bitter, sore and with a feeling of disillusionment. Most of the time, kids blame the father when things happen that way.

For a good reason too. As we speak, the grandma and other paternal relatives may be feeding them with all sorts of hate stuff. It happens more often than not. They are likely saying, "Look at your brutal father. He is using his position as a VP to torment your mother. What kind of father does that on his wife and children?" It's called perception, and perception is a hard fact of life.

This may not have occurred in the VP's mind, but that perception of vindictiveness has a national, and then international implication. It spawns fear, then revulsion, among the Zimbabwean citizenry. Because, in the court of public opinion, a man who does that on his wife — guilty or not guilty — can do worse on the citizenry. The international community will ask itself if it must have any business to do with a leadership that is so vindictive.

Take potential investors for instance. They are probably wondering if it would ever make sense to invest in Zimbabwe. Money is a coward. It doesn't want to go where it feels it can be harmed any time because the leadership is vindictive. That's an economic conversation now. So, take it or leave it, the decision to press charges against Marry has the potential of scaring potential investors. It's something that doesn't come too obviously, because, more often than not, potential investors will not say we can't come to Zimbabwe because your VP caused his wife to be locked up. They will just say Zimbabwe is an uncertain investment destination.

And there, President Emmerson Mnangagwa is implicated in the court of public opinion. Have a look, the late ex-president Robert Mugabe had a messy domestic life by all standards. But he was well-known for one thing. He had a poor regard for lieutenants who were publicly known to run messy domestic affairs. It seems contradictory, but that was the fact. Quite a number of his ministers got demoted for merely divorcing their wives or washing their dirty bedroom linen in public. Check the records.

Now, the court of public opinion will say, "So what's the president doing about his own VP?" Mnangagwa is damned if he doesn't intervene, and damned too if he does. If he does, it would look like he is interfering with court issues. It would also bring him to loggerheads with his VP, who many out there think he is pretty afraid of. Where does it happen for a president to be afraid of his VP?

Normally, you expect the VP to consult his boss even in matters personal. It's not clear if that happened. If that happened, it means that what the court of public opinion is accusing the VP of, it will accuse the president of. The rotting buck will be cut in two and shared between the two of them. So, what started off of as a domestic Chiwenga dispute is quickly manifesting as a condemnation of the president. That's how damned the president will become if he doesn't talk to his guy so that a domestic matter is settled in the bedroom.

After all, chaps who will be regular participants this Christmas at the public courtroom will be asking a whole range of other questions in cross-examination of the VP in absentia. At what stage did you discover that Marry had externalised a million bucks? Why didn't you act then? Is that all the money that was in your home, in cash? Did you not keep more cash on yourself? Is it true that you also took millions, in cash, from Chiadzwa through Anjin as Global Witness alleged in 2012? Why were you keeping many guns in your cabinet that you allege your other former wife, Jocylene Mauchaza, stole? What war did you have in mind? Why are you in the habit of settling domestic issues in court? What kind of a VP do you think you are? What has Zimbabwe done to deserve you?

l Tawanda Majoni is the Information for Development Trust (IDT) national coordinator and can be contacted on tmajoni@idt.org.zw

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