By Wisdom Mumera
The continued engagement of lawyers who occupy top ranks in the country’s opposition parties as defence counsel by arrested former Zanu PF members has divided opinions among the public and threatens to derail the opposition’s agenda in 2018 elections.
Since the fall of Robert Mugabe in November last year through a military coup, former Zanu officials who are being arrested for alleged corruption and abuse of office appear to be turning to the opposition for justice.
MDC-T’s Job Sikhala is currently defending former Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi who is accused of swindling the state in a TV scandal.
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) president and Law Professor Lovemore Madhuku is defending former Finance and Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, also accused of corruption.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti has also been previously engaged by former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor and Zanu PF apologist Gideon Gono.
Prominent political analyst Maxwell Saungweme lamented the opposition’s lack of tact in its dealings with Zanu PF.
Veteran journalist Gilbert Nyambabvu also attacked the opposition members for conflicting behaviour.
“The problem is not with lawyers generally but lawyers who are also active politicians. In the political arena you say people are corrupt but in your day job as a lawyer you defend them. Which is which?
“So, are the opposition lawyers only ending with the first respect (violated rights) and not getting involved with the corruption charges
Other analysts have however offered different perspectives on the matter.
David Hofisi, a Constitutional law expert, has pinpointed the new Zanu PF nature as being among primary reasons justifying the moves by opposition lawyers.
“Chombo et al’s choice of lawyers is explained by the following distinct yet related reasons: 1. ZANU PF is changing/has changed face and the traditionally Zanu PF lawyers will not align with the old in the face of the new, that will jeopardize future business with the incumbents, rather ignore calls from colleagues in the wilderness”
” 2. They are de facto members of the opposition, at least in the eyes of those that matter and thus 3. Only traditionally opposition lawyers will be willing to represent them which is aided by the fact that; 4. They are able to do so given their history confronting politically motivated charges; 5 If they actually settle their fees that would be good, since some reports (recent and old) suggest that ZANU PF itself does not have a good record in that regard,” he said.
Brian Tamuka Kagoro, another political analyst, also defended the opposition members by hailing the primacy of fairness in justice delivery.
“Let’s see whether the electorate is democrats who whilst seeking justice against looters and murderers understand that justice must be even-handedly applied to friends, foes and anything else in between. Injustice against anyone anywhere poses a threat to justice everywhere for everyone”
“We do not do law for populism or political acceptance. A society survives by honouring its laws even when doing so seems unpopular and inconvenient. A lawyer doesn’t have to like you, agree with you or share your views in order to defend your constitutional rights,” he said.
Kagoro added that “today the victims of regime overreach maybe characters we resent, tomorrow it will be our revered leaders then it will be too late to start fighting certain behavioural patterns. Whether it is politically strategic is quite a separate question from whether it should be done.
“Separate two things here: 1. Representing a person whose rights are being violated through unlawful detention and torture; and 2. Defending corrupt acts of such politicians. These are quite distinct. The former does not constitute condonation of reprehensible and corrupt behaviour,” he added.
The new Emerson Mnangagwa-led government has been accused of selectively applying justice by hunting its factional enemies from the so-called G-40 whilst ignoring those from within its ranks.
Various Zanu PF personalities including former Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Samuel Undenge, former Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa, former Sports, Arts and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane and former Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Joseph Made have been arrested on a variety of charges as the anti-corruption drive continues.