The imprisonment of Bikita West legislator Munyaradzi Kereke for raping his niece at gunpoint has been met with mixed feelings in his constituency, with some sympathising with him while others say they will not shed a tear for the former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe advisor.
By Tatenda Chitagu
Kereke (Zanu PF) was on Monday slapped with a 14-year jail term for raping his then 11-year-old niece at gunpoint six years ago.
Kereke (44) will, however, serve an effective 10 years behind bars after Harare regional magistrate Noel Mupeiwa set aside four years of the sentence on condition of good behaviour. The legislator was acquitted on another charge of indecent assault levelled against him by his other minor niece.
According to section 129 (1) of the Constitution, a legislator can lose his seat after a conviction, among other reasons.
Kereke can retain his seat if he appeals against both sentence and conviction, according to section 129 (2), but legal experts say this can only happen if he gets bail pending appeal.
For some people in his constituency — where he trounced a preferred Zanu PF candidate, Elias Musakwa after the party fielded two candidates, as well as incumbent MDC-T legislator Heya Shoko — his jailing is a big loss.
“We sympathise with Kereke, but we have to allow the law to take its course. While we accept and respect the law, it is a big loss to us given that he was the favourite in Zanu PF as shown by the results,” a Zanu PF insider in Bikita said.
Some of the people say his many promised projects, which he had initiated, are going to suffer a stillbirth.
“He had promised to build us a clinic and we had started moulding bricks. While building had not yet started, we feel the project may not take off. One of the reasons was that he was saddled with legal battles and could not do the projects at the pace we would have wanted,” said Tendai Mugwadi, from ward 12.
Kereke had promised to build a clinic at Dungu in ward 12 and people were reportedly still moulding bricks. The same applies to Charamba in ward 19 and 22 where bricks were being moulded, according to villagers.
The former advisor to ex-RBZ governor, Gideon Gono, had reportedly de-silted Chireverere Dam, but the scooping needs to be regularly done, according to villagers, as the dam wall is wrecked
In 2012, Kereke donated 30 tonnes of maize from his Pamene farm as he hit the campaign trail at Gwindingwi school grounds.
At the same function, he also pledged to renovate the Bikita District Heroes Acre and to also fund the reburial of war veterans from the area.
But when asked about the progress of the pledges, the villagers gave muted responses, as they feared to talk about the politician.
Kereke also worked closely with three chiefs in Bikita — Marozva, Mukanganwi and Mazungunye — who defended his candidature in the July 31 polls and said they stood by him despite getting a tongue-lashing from President Robert Mugabe.
The three chiefs could not be reached for their views on Kereke’s imprisonment.
However, to others — both in Zanu PF and outside — Kereke’s imprisonment is good riddance.
“We cannot have such an MP…it is fair that he goes to jail. People need to be represented by a role model. The law should not be applied selectively,” another villager said.
Another villager said they doubted Kereke would have completed the projects even if he had not been sent to prison.
“He would not finish anything that he started. While we needed the projects, we doubted if it was not mere campaign tactics. I also doubt he was going to complete the projects even if he was not sent to jail,” a villager who preferred anonymity said.
Before his imprisonment Kereke’s fortunes had taken a nosedive as his businesses were saddled by debts.
His flagship Rockfoundation Medical Centre (RMC) is now closed following the seizure of most of its movable assets to recover a debt owed to Westchase Consultants.
Westchase claims it was not paid for services rendered, with the bill being put at $20 640.
The medical facility was also slapped with a garnishee order by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority for an outstanding tax bill.