Zimbabwe: Questioning the judiciary and the abortive opposition

Morgan Tsvangirai, and not Robert Mugabe, has become the most poignant effigy symbolizing the tragedy that is Zimbabwe. Much like the young nation that stood replete with promise and seemingly unlimited potential in the early 90's, Tsvangirai emerged as the most potent threat to Mugabe's tyranny at the turn of the century. Just like the country, once known as “Africa's breadbasket” has become Africa's basket case, Tsvangirai has turned into a tragic case of a could've been, should've been.

The increasingly isolated leader of the main opposition held a publicized press confrence announcing that Mugabe's efforts to hang on to power would be rebuffed. Unsurprisingly, this event, which early 1998 galvanized the nation's workers to a work stoppage that ground the nation to standstill was hardly noticed by ordinary Zimbwabeans. People are not happy with state of the nation, neither are they happy with Tsvangirai.

Bev Clark at Kubatanablogs epitomizes the deep frustration felt by many Zimbabweans at the arbotive opposition:

Tsvangirai believes that elections are the way to go, either in 2008 or whenever. Never mind that we’ve had the last several elections stolen from under our noses. Yes of course we agree that the conditions need to be rectified in order to hold accountable and transparent elections but we also know that this is the very last thing that Mugabe will allow because it would be shooting himself in his own small foot.

So therefore we have the two dominant political parties in Zimbabwe playing the same old games. Zanu PF is bound to win, and the MDC is bound to lose – unless the MDC stops ploughing the same old barren fields of thought and action.

Using the judiciary as a political weapon

Meanwhile David Coltart, the MDC's shadow Justice minister penned a sharp rebuke of the government's priorities after a prominent judge publicly denounced government's poor regard of the judiciary on his blog:

However the reason why this deleterious situation has been allowed to arise is because the Zanu PF regime does not care about justice and only tolerates the Judiciary in so far as it serves its purposes. Since 2000 law, and the justice system in general, has been used as a weapon against legitimate democratic opposition. Spurious charges have been brought against opposition leaders, activists and supporters; equally spurious trials have been held. Judges have delayed politically sensitive matters such as electoral petitions and applications for the release of activists, including MPs, causing serious miscarriages of justice. Many Judges have seriously compromised their independence by taking and occupying farms often unlawfully seized from commercial farmers.

Still on the judiciary, The Bearded Man has a report about some white farmers who are making a last ditch effort at keeping their land by opposing impending redistribution of their land in court. He fatalistically opines, “Rest assured, Mugabe will make sure that even if the courts were to order the government to back down, they will ignore it, taking the farm by force if necessary.”

New blogger on the block

Be sure to check the newest Zimbabwean Blog: Zimbabwe:Outpost of Tyranny.


  • To all those Doubting Thomases, naysayers, negativists and perpetual pessimists (within Zimbabwe but also among some of the friendly international powers) who can consistently be relied upon to moan about what they see as an “inactive civil society”, “docile population”, and “impotent poltical opposition”, we declare, loudly: You need to get out more.

    Both civil society organisations and and the democratic political opposition have been frenzied in their activities and activism during this past week and much of their organizing has been around the Mugabe regime’s attempt to force through a plan to extend his stay in office from 2008 to 2010.

    Here’s a quick tally of some of the important actions and activities occurring during this past week:

    On Tuesday, ZESN (Zimbabwe Elections Support Network), an independent umbrella group of more than 30 civil society organizations whose mission is to work towards asssuring transparent free and fair democratic elections in Zimbabwe, organized a public meeting at the Jameson Hotel to discuss the ruling party’s attempt to delay Presidential elections from 2008 to 2010. The ZESN chief, the medical doctor Reginald Matchaba-Hove, chaired the lively and sometimes raucous meeting. There was an overflow crowd of close to 1000 persons in attendance in the hotel’s largest meeting room and the temperature inside must have been close to 40 degrees. The guest speakers were the Professor Eldred Masunungure, who is also the President of the Mass Public Opinion Institute in Harare; Jonathan Moyo, former Minister of Communications (and principal author of repressive media legislation ) and now Independent Member of Parliament; Gabriel Chaibva, the information officer for the break-away “pro-senate” faction of the oppostion MDC party; and Tendai Biti, the Secretary General of the MDC.
    On Wednesday Morning, ZESN organized another meeting to discuss the same issue, this time at the Bronte Hotel for civil society organizations. Another excellent and lively debate and discussion as well as a good turnout of perhaps 100 members of civil society organizations.
    Also on Wednesday, the Save Zimbabwe Campaign organized another one of its lunch-time noise-making protests in Harare to manifest the population’s outrage at the continuing economic downward spiral.
    On Thursday, the National Constitutional Assembly held a protest march to draw attention to the regime’s attempt to postpone presidential elections (and maintain Mugabe in power) until 2010.
    On Thursday night, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human RIghts held a Public Meeting at the Book Cafe on Fife Avenue on the topic: “I can’t retire if my party is going to be in shambles,” Robert Mugabe, 14 December 2006. The speakers were Jacob Mafume of the Crisis Coalition, Lovemore Madhuku of NCA and the civil rights lawyer, Theresa Mugadza.
    On Friday morning at the Rainbow Towers, the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe organized the launch of a self-regulatory media council for Zimbabwe to be called the Media Council of Zimbabwe. The keynote address was delivered by the executive secretary of the Tanzania media council, Anthony Ngaiza. Solidarity remarks were delivered by the Southern Africa Journalists Association, ZESN, NANGO, Crisis Coalition, Zimbabwe Human RIghts NGO Forum, Community Newspaper Association of ZImbabwe, Zimbabwe Editors’ Forum and the ZImbabwe Association of Editors. The down note of the meeting was an address delivered by Leo Mugabe, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications (and nephew of the dictator). Mugabe, who had been surprisingly supportive of the initiative to form the independent media council up until the day of the meeting, delivered a speech laced with veiled threats to the organizers and advising against creating what he called “a parallel structure” to the regime’s MIC (Media Information Council). Following Mugabe’s speech the Tanzanian keynote speaker urged the particpants to forge ahead and not to be disuaded or discouraged by the government’s obstructionism.
    Not bad for a week’s work by Zimbabwe’s democratic forces!

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