In Zimbabwe, the person of the President of the Republic has been dishing out choice words at will to his opponents – the latest being friends-turned-foes in fired Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s camp – but has been sheltered from verbal attacks of similar brutality, intensity and crudity on the unfair grounds that the Head of State must not be insulted in return even when he has used unstatesmanlike-language on others.
CONWAY TUTANI ECHOES
President Robert Mugabe has been having the best of both worlds: The complete freedom to insult anyone anyhow, and total protection from insults. A real one-sided game it has been.
That is until Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku’s pleasantly refreshing take on this absurd state of affairs, pointing out the lopsidedness of it all and its unsustainability at law. Justice Chidyausiku really put it into context, refusing to mix politics with law.
Last week, Justice Chidyausiku put it to the National Prosecuting Authority as to whether name-calling thrown back and forth between politicians should be prosecutable as insulting each other and really deserving of the Constitutional Court’s time and determination.
The judge is presiding over the case of main opposition MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora who stands accused of labelling Mugabe a “goblin” (chikwambo/umkhoba) at a rally in 2009.
Citing current name-calling within the ruling Zanu PF with the rival factions referring to each other as “Gamatox” and “weevils”, the judge posited this to the Prosecutor-General’s representative: “If somebody calls the President a weevil or Gamatox, are you going to prosecute that person? It is part of the trade of politics. Why are you bringing such matters to the Constitutional Court?
“The President is not a goblin and we all know that. Why should the law bother itself about it? You have to be an imbecile to believe the President is a goblin.”
Indeed, only imbeciles would believe that Jonathan Moyo is a weevil and Didymus Mutasa is Gamatox. It cuts both ways.
Such depth, broadness and originality of thinking is the stuff landmark court rulings are made of, not the mere acceptance of what has been happening so far. Law should not be held hostage to political convention.
It’s the stuff which sets precedence in law, not the banality we are subjected to by some judges too lazy to think outside the box.
As soon as a Head of State reels out unbecoming language, he loses that esteemed status, despite the protection of the law.
Yes, if a Head of State shouts and screams, making a public show of himself, he loses respect in the eyes of society.
Trading insulting language kind of equalises because both antagonists descend into the gutter.
This is what drove Justice Chidyausiku to use the word “imbecile”. The word is loaded.
An imbecile is a person who is mentally deficient and feeble-minded. It’s an extremely stupid person.
So, one can understand Justice Chidyausiku’s apparent impatience with bringing legal non-issues to the highest court in the land with a busy and clogged schedule. Theatrics are for rallies, not the courts.
But wait, enter Information minister Moyo.
Once a spin doctor, always a spin doctor. Declared Moyo: “. . . the judicial sentiments expressed by the Chief Justice during the hearing of Mwonzora’s case in open court last week are very true of the typically imbecilic and idiotic disposition of opposition parties towards virtually everything that has to do with President Mugabe, Zanu PF and the Government . ”
That is twisting the judge’s words from what he meant.
Isn’t it equally imbecilic to miss the inference that Justice Chidyausiku made that it cuts both ways?
According to Justice Chidyausiku, it doesn’t matter whether you are a goblin, weevil or Gamatox because the difference is the same at law – it’s of imbecilic significance at the most.
Where, on a scale of one to 10 of imbecility, does this place the people who drafted and passed the law? It did not rain from the sky. What is important, as Midlands State University lecturer Dr Nhamo Mhiripiri rightly pointed out, is to build a mature political culture and a value system that reduces personal insults. But Moyo will have none of that.
We need to restore the necessary common sense and honest-to-goodness judgment. We need to be plain, genuine, and straightforward and avoid empty, insulting verbalisation.
The word contortionist that he is, Moyo this week went a gear up by referring to Mugabe’s “alleged fall” at Harare International Airport despite pictures showing the President on all fours, yes, with both hands and feet on the ground.
You don’t need to be that overprotective and over-defensive (or fearful?) by saying the President “tripped over a poorly laid-out carpet”. That is imbecilic.
Anyone can fall, but old people are particularly suspectible to this. Global statistics show that falls are the common cause of accidental death among elderly people, mostly those over 80 years old – and Mugabe is very much past that.
Celebrating Mugabe’s fall would project anyone doing that as low in humanity, but, hold it, imagine Moyo’s glee and delight if this had befallen someone in the Gamatox camp or MDC-T?
We don’t need lying, bootlicking, pretentious office holders interested only in feathering their own nest, but this has given us an insight – brief but deep – into the inner workings of the government. It’s dysfunctional because there is fear of upsetting the boss such that a common word like “fall” is given a new meaning.
What else do they lie to and about Mugabe in the name of ingratiation?
With such “a team of advisers”, you don’t need imbeciles!