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Govt must respect the constitution

THE recent arrest of the Attorney- General, Sobusa Gula-Ndebele, on allegations of contravening Section 174 (1) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 has once again shown the Zanu PF regime’s lack of appreciation and understandin

g of the concepts of the rule of law, separation of powers and independence of the Attorney-General’s office. The action shows a contempt and disdain for constitutional principles and is symptomatic of a regime that has lost its way and direction.


While we hold no brief for Gula-Ndebele and we express no opinion on the correctness or otherwise of the decision he is alleged to have made in relation to James Mushore, our concern as the Movement Democratic Change is that the behaviour of the police undermines the remaining vestiges of the public’s confidence in the justice delivery system. Over the years we have witnessed the battering that the rule of law has received at the hands of the Zanu PF regime and this latest incident simply reinforces the point that we must return to constitutionalism and respect of our institutions.


While our constitution is defective and needs a complete overhaul, it does give some independence to the judiciary and the Attorney- General and in this regard Section 76(7) of the constitution is clear and unambiguous in that it gives unfettered powers to the Attorney-General and it states that he or she “shall not be subject to the direction and control of any person or authority”. One would therefore have expected that in the exercise of his duties the Attorney-General is vested with discretionary powers in matters relating to prosecutions.


In any civilised society, there are ways of dealing with issues and if it was felt that the Attorney-General had exceeded the bonds of the powers vested in him, then the proper procedures would be to institute proceedings for his removal instead of hauling him before the police as a common criminal.


Unfortunately, Zimbabwe is neither a civilised nor a democratic country and it would be too much to expect the Zanu PF regime to pay any regard to legal niceties and Zimbabwean citizens have over the years been victims of this high-handed approach only for the cases to collapse due to lack of evidence.


It is not only members of the opposition and civil society who have been arrested on trumped up charges and the arrest of the Attorney-General comes in the wake of the acquittal of Levison Chikafu, the Manicaland area public prosecutor. Chikafu was not even placed on his defence and he was cleared of all five charges he was facing after being discharged at the close of the state case. He made allegations that his prosecution was politically-motivated because he had the courage to prosecute some high profile individuals.


The Zanu PF regime has shown in the past that it is not comfortable with people who execute their duties in a professional way and it has a long history of ignoring legal advice given to it. It was not comfortable with the previous Attorney-General and one hopes that we are not witnessing a situation where this is persecution and harassment related to political differences.


We have noted that the Attorney-General’s Office Bill which went through its first reading and received a non-adverse report from the Parliamentary Legal Committee has not seen the light of day and is gathering dust in some office somewhere and one wonders whether there is a link between the latest incident and the Bill.


As the MDC, we believe that Zimbabwe can only move forward when we have a government which derives its mandate from the people through elections which are held freely and fairly under a democratic peopledriven constitution. It is only such a government which can observe democratic norms and standards and respect its institutions, the rule of law and democracy.



Innocent Gonese,


MDC secretary for justice,


legal and parliamentary


affairs.

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