The Zimbabwe Independent

Is the law, as they say, really an ass?

- MUCKRAKER Twitter: @MuckrakerZ­im

THE outrage that followed the granting of bail to a group of notorious robbers this week is understand­able considerin­g the characters and history of the men involved. at the police ordered the robbers to be retained in custody came as a relief to the country.

But the whole case raises eyebrows on several fronts, the most worrying of which is corruption in the judiciary.

Since the coming in of the new dispensati­on three years ago, there have been numerous cases in which people who do not deserve bail have been granted it, much to the ire of the public, hence, the phrase “catch and release” has been coined.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been quoted expressing his frustratio­n with this and, the current case has reinforced the frustratio­n of everyone who cares about fighting crime in Zimbabwe.

Musa Taj Abdul (47) is about as notorious as robbers come. Not only does he have a trail of robberies behind him, but he also has been on the run for 18 years.

His two co-accused, Godfrey Mupamhanga (27) and Rudolf Tapiwa Kanhanga (29), have also been implicated in several robberies. And, the way they were apprehende­d also says a lot about how dangerous they are. Gunfire was exchanged with the police in way that showed just how accomplish­ed gunmen the robbers are. To have them back in society would have therefore been a travesty.

High Court Judge Justice Benjamin Chikowero granted them bail and prosecutor Tapiwa Kasema consented. Muckraker usually doesn’t wish to dabble in judicial politics, but it would be remiss of him not to say his two cents, which is that, this case stinks of corruption.

Kusema has been investigat­ed for corruption before. Only last year he was arrested on criminal abuse of office charges after he consented to the release of a passport belonging to former Cabinet minister Ignatius Chombo, who was facing several corruption allegation­s.

Muckraker wonders why this same prosecutor was given such a high-profile case when he was already of questionab­le integrity. In many profession­s, anyone who has such a background is either suspended or demoted until he has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

As for the judge who was said to have misdirecte­d himself in relying on a concession which was improperly made and therefore did not properly apply his mind in the case, there are several question marks too. But what this points to is that even if the learned judge is eventually exonerated in this case, the whole bench should be scrutinise­d thoroughly; gone are the times when it was taken for granted that judges always do their work with probity.

is is especially true following so closely after another case of a judge being suspended pending investigat­ion for not properly performing her work.

A tale of two laws

WHILE still on the issue of bail: are there two laws governing the granting of it — a political bail law and a criminal bail one?

Musa Taj Abdul was granted $5 000 bail in spite of his track record of crime. His accomplice­s got away with much lower sums. ey were asked to report to the police once a week,

But now consider the “political prisoners”!

Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was bailed out for $10 000. He was facing charges of inciting people to take part in violent demonstrat­ions on July 31 against the government. Stringent conditions accompanie­d the bail such as that he reports to the police twice a week.

Tendai Biti, MDC-Alliance vice-president, was also granted a $10 000 bail in a case in which he was accused of assault of a female Russian national. After the police sought to arrest him he went voluntaril­y to the police who went on to detain him overnight. ere, therefore, seemed to be little likelihood of him absconding court.

Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume was granted a $30 000 bail charged with criminal abuse of office over the allocation of residentia­l stands allegedly to his sister and secretary. In a related case in which he is facing charges of obstructin­g the course of justice or alternativ­ely contempt of court after he allegedly interfered with a key witness, he was yesterday denied bail.

Chin’ono, Biti and Mafume are considered enemy by the ruling party so their high bail figures and the stringent reporting conditions point to a political motive. But does this speak to the allegation­s of state capture of the judiciary?

e independen­ce of the judiciary is one of the pillars of our government­al system and that the ruling party seems to dictate the kind of bail conditions courts apply is a great indictment of our system.

No vaccine yet

WITH the coronaviru­s second wave having hit the shore, Zimbabwean­s really need to sit down and reflect on their response to the renewed threat.

In March this year when the first lockdown was put in place, Zimbabwean­s seemed to really adhere to the conditions announced. But two weeks after the lockdown, people just relaxed because they thought Covid-19 was something of a hoax. Indeed, according to official statistics, the deaths were sparse and the majority Zimbabwean­s had not seen or heard of any of their kin having contracted the disease.

e relaxed approach went on for months through the winter when they had been expected to spike. When summer came in about September, Zimbabwean­s really returned to their old easygo-lucky kind of living, forgetting Covid-19 was the new normal.

Testing has increased and the numbers are beginning to reflect a truer picture. is means the official figures the country was led to believe were misleading. e truth is, Zimbabwe, like the rest of the world, is in the grip of a rapacious virus that knows no race or nationalit­y.

Zimbabwean­s have to rise to the occasion and all stakeholde­rs have to up their game in re-educating the masses on the prevention of the disease. is is going to be difficult considerin­g the attitudes of many people.

A spike is expected this festive season as many people jump on buses and pirate taxis to travel to their rural areas or other places where they wish to spend their Christmas season. Travelling on these modes of transport is likely to be a super-spreader of the virus. It is unlikely people will adhere to the advice given by experts.

But inspection­s should be done regularly along the roads to check that travellers wear masks, and are properly distanced. Social distancing will be the major challenge, since Zimbabwean­s have the habit of rushing to travel at the same time during the festive season.

A sobering thought that has to be hammered into the minds of the people is that although vaccines have been rolled out in developed countries, it is unlikely Zimbabwean­s will have access to them in at least the next 24 months.

Reports in the UK press indicate that the vaccines are not only pricy but also that the logistics of ferrying them around are quite some task. One of the vaccines has to be stored at temperatur­es below -70 degrees C while another could be more viable in hot conditions like ours demanding to be stored at about the temperatur­e of our deep freezers.

But Zimbabwean­s must disabuse themselves of the hope that they will get vaccines any time soon. is means the onus is on every one of us to keep safe. If this means people should desist from travelling this festive season so be it. Most of Zimbabwe’s elderly, who happen to be the most vulnerable, live in the rural areas, and that just happens to be where the majority city dwellers are flocking to. is spells disaster.

But whatever one chooses to do, remember the basic WHO guideline of prevention and transmissi­on. Wear a mask, wash hands regularly and keep a safe distance from the next person. Good luck!

“ e independen­ce of the judiciary is one of the pillars of our government­al system and that the ruling party seems to dictate the kind of bail conditions courts apply is a great indictment of our system.”

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