ZANU PF’s campaign machinery suffered a body blow yesterday after the High Court ordered the ruling party to stop commandeering pupils to its rallies.

BY TATENDA CHITAGU

The court also ruled against the use of school premises, buses and furniture for political gatherings.

The landmark ruling by Masvingo High Court judge Justice Joseph Mafusire came hardly a week after a fatal explosion rocked President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s (pictured) Zanu PF rally at White City Stadium in Bulawayo, claiming two lives and seriously injuring 47 others among them Vice-President Kembo Mohadi.

The court ordered Zanu PF and Education minister Paul Mavima to immediately stop the practice of exposing schoolchildren to harsh political environments such as rallies.

The ruling, which also barred Zanu PF from forcing teachers to donate towards its functions, follows an application by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) and its leader Obert Masaraure.

ARTUZ had argued that frogmarching pupils and students to political rallies exposed them to irreparable harm and contravened their rights.

“As I understand, the argument by the applicant’s counsel (Douglas Coltart), the activities complained of has been perpetrated through the agency of the second respondent who is a government minister and a senior official in the first respondent’s party. Several other pieces of evidence submitted show that the first respondent is guilty of such acts of misconduct,” the judge said.

“My decision today is premised on the requirements of an interim interdict which are well known.”

Justice Mafusire added: “The application is also entitled to relief if the harm is of a continuous nature and there is no other effective remedy to counter it. I am satisfied that the papers placed before me classically prove prima facie requirements of an interdict. I am satisfied that applicants have laid out a prima facie case of an interdict to restrain the first respondent of the conduct complained of mainly compelling children to attend its political functions, to compel teachers to donate or fund its functions, to commandeer school property like furniture, buses and premises for its political functions and the like. In the circumstances, the interim relief sought in terms of the draft order filed with this court today is hereby granted.”

Zanu PF lawyer, Nickel Mushangwe, who tried unsuccessfully to abrogate blame to Mavima, described the ruling as unfair and indicated that he would appeal the ruling after consulting with the ruling party.

He had argued that the judge should spare Zanu PF and only interdict Mavima since such a judgment against the ruling party would derail its election campaign ahead of the July 30 elections.

Mushangwe also expressed fears that the Press “will have a field day” over the ruling.

Mavima’s lawyer, Talent Udenge, from the Attorney-General’s Office, said he would abide by the court’s decision while Coltart described the interdict as a victory for the rights of pupils and teachers.