In defence of our democracy
Judges only uphold constitutional provisions. It is the Constitution which allows people to demonstrate or to petition their Government, not judges.
In this case, what President Mugabe said could not be allowed to continue are “violent demonstrations”. To the best of my knowledge, limited though it is, there is no provision or section in our Constitution which permits “violent demonstrations” and as such there can be no way a judge could possibly sanction one.
To then claim that President Mugabe attacked or intimidated the Judiciary for sanctioning something that doesn’t exist in the Constitution, that is, a “violent demonstration”, is mischief.
It cheapens the serious work judges are impelled to perform by the Constitution.
In fact, there appears to be determined efforts by opposition politicians and sections of the media to drive a wedge between the Judiciary and the Executive, or to turn judges into political creatures, and to insinuate that they distort judgments pursuant to undisclosed political agendas.
That is the mischief, Justice Priscillah Chigumba demonstrations for seven days to allow the State to put its papers in order.
She said the purported ban was unprocedurally done and thus in violation of the Constitution. She said it was not the role of police to make laws via statutory instruments.
Like we pointed out in yesterday’s paper, the State bungled its own case. There was nothing about the judge taking a personal or political position in her ruling. She simply stated the law.
For someone to then read in that ruling “an island of defiance” of the Executive by Justice Chigumba is most strange, not least because her preamble to the ruling removes all personal interest or views from it. She is stating the law in its cold principle, without emotion or seeking to challenge, let alone defy the President.
The judge’s preamble is very important. It is opposition political parties themselves which have often made scurrilous claims about President Mugabe packing the court with Zanu-PF sympathisers.
If the opposition parties who are wont to complain about a compromised Judiciary when judgments are delivered against them.
They have sought to impugn the integrity of the Judiciary by claiming decisions which go against their interests are politically motivated.
Justice Chigumba has done her duty; the law must be followed scrupulously, and judicial pronouncements read as such, without imputing political motive to them. She hasn’t done either the pro-demonstrations or those against any favour.
Which takes us to the heart of the demonstrations themselves, and more importantly, some of their declared aims and objectives.
There were protests against SI 64 of 2016 banning imports which came into effect on July 1 2016. Then kombi drivers said there were too many roadblocks and that police were extorting bribes.
Now there is Nera and Tajamuka saying they want to force Zanu-PF and President Mugabe to relinquish power.
Now Tendai Biti who won the day is not just a prominent opposition figure and a lawyer. His party is part of Nerawhich is pushing for more demonstrations (hopefully only those permissible by the Constitution).
He knows more than an average demonstrator the ways of the law and the Constitution. He knows how leaders come by power in a democracy. They are voted oted in and out. Nowhere does our Constitution legalise lise demonstrations to remove an elected president fromom power.
The people alluded to by Justice Chigumba are the ultimate authority on how leaders get into power, not demonstrators. Some of the demonstrators voted for the current Constitution in 2013.
We don’t believe Biti expects judges to make “braveave judgments” in future in support of those who seek to unconstitutionally-remove an elected governmentnt from power through demonstrations, violent or r otherwise, nor the same judges to be lenient with those who destroy property and violate the rights of others pursuant to their democratic right to demonstrate.
That would certainly be careless and negligent. It’s a fair deal. There is no provision for violent demonstrations in our Constitution. You can get your pound of flesh Shylock, but no drop of blood on the floor.