Comment: Abuse of President, Judiciary repugnant

OVER the past few days, attempts have been made to set an agenda for the case in which former zanu-pf secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa and ex-spokesman Rugare Gumbo are challenging the outcome of zanu-pf’s 6th National People’s Congress, which they claim was illegal and should be of no force or effect.

The two, who were expelled from zanu-pf, also want to be restored to their former positions in the party.

The agenda-setting has taken the form of twisting President Mugabe’s comments over the Mutasa and Gumbo lawsuit to which the President is cited as the second respondent.

While addressing people gathered to witness the unveiling of chrome beneficiation technology in Chirumanzu-Zibagwe Constituency last week, President Mugabe said courts have no jurisdiction in private party matters, and he would be surprised if any judge found merit in Mutasa’s case.

Anti-Government tabloids immediately latched onto this as a threat on the Judiciary and began carving screaming headlines to that effect.

Opposition activists-cum-lawyers were roped in to condemn the President’s comments as inimical to the separation of powers.

But the agenda was very clear, the stories were meant to rile judges so they sympathise with Mutasa and Gumbo who also conveniently claimed that they had filed their application out of time because lawyers had been intimidated against taking the case, yet the record will show — as we reported here — that lawyers were reluctant to take up the application given its lack of legal merit.

Mutasa and Gumbo only managed to find agency because the unknown firm, Nyakutombwa Mugabe Legal Counsel, are said to have solicited for the case in the hope of hitting the big time.

For the record, President Mugabe is a litigant in the case and was within his rights to comment on the case.

The decision as to whether the courts have jurisdiction or not is ultimately the court’s to make, but precedent shows that courts have no role in private, voluntary organisations like political parties.

zanu-pf is a private club whose membership is not compulsory.

It decides who it wants within its ranks.

What we find ironic is the fact that the applicants, Mutasa and Gumbo, have been shooting their mouths off about the case but neither the tabloids in question nor self-righteous lawyers found anything amiss in the pair’s fulminations.

Equally, when MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai attacked the Judiciary on several occasions, there was not even a whimper from the same quarters that are going shrill over President Mugabe’s routine comment.

Anyone who has gone through Mutasa and Gumbo’s voluminous application will have realised that the duo raise political issues and not legal ones. For instance Mutasa admits organising but not attending the Congress he wants to lampoon. His reason for not attending, he was taking his sick wife to India, at least that is what he told the party first secretary and President, Cde Mugabe.

At stake in the whole saga are ideological issues where Zanu-PF gave Gumbo and Mutasa the boot for straying from the party line, a fact which Mutasa himself went on to confirm in an interview with the Mail & Guardian of South Africa when he repudiated the land reform programme and the indigenisation and economic empowerment progranmme, all of which lay at the heart of the liberation struggle and are integral to Zanu-PF’s vision.

As such Mutasa’s court bid, and the feverish agenda setting by the opposition tabloids, is a clear attempt to resuscitate the rule of law and human rights discourse on which the opposition pitched its political campaign, particularly in light of the re-engagement between Zimbabwe and the West, and in light of President Mugabe’s rising trajectory in the Sadc region and continentally.

Surely, President Mugabe was within his rights to say the courts should not be abused to referee issues outside their purview.

And if that can be taken as a threat, then Didymus Mutasa is still the Zanu-PF secretary for Administration!