ZANU PF Hardliners Now Going After Judges

Mugabe is seen here chatting with Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara on Friday at Heroes Acre for the burial of Misheck Chando (Mugabe had a day earlier told his party's central Committee that Mutambara was like Nicodemus: "They are with us during the day, but during the night, they are with the other party", he said. A day after this picture was taken, a meeting held in Harare resolved not to let judges "reverse the gains of the liberation struggle."

Harare, Zimbabwe, 02 November 2009

An "emergency meeting" attended by the so-called hardliners that the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai is too scared to name was held on Saturday, I have just learnt. At least three of those attending are also members of the JOC, the Joint Operations Command which has now deployed more than 2000 soldiers into the countryside to intimidate villagers ahead of a possible election being mulled by Mugabe.

From reports of the meeting, it appears that it was triggered by the decision of Justice Hungwe to grant Roy Bennett bail (or rather reinstate his previous stringent bail conditions) over the objections of Zimbabwe's Attorney General, Johannnes Tomana who is also considered one of these hardliners or, at the very least, in their pay at their back and call.

Under discussion was "a trend to reverse the liberation struggle through the courts and using the law". The hardliners want Mugabe, who is the ultimate decider where judges are concerned, to do something about the errant judges, of whom Justice Hungwe is being touted as the "ringleader".

Justice Hungwe presents a special challenge to the hardliners because he is a genuine war veteran, who was, at one point, chairman of the War Veterans Association of Zimbabwe. This is a grouping of former guerrillas who fought in the liberation war against Ian Smith Rhodesian government in the 1970s.

Hungwe was trained in Tanzania, but this point was brushed aside at the meeting on Saturday, with one of those present, a senior ranking commander in the Defence Forces of the country, saying that even during the liberation war itself, there were "sellouts" in the training camps who appeared devoted to the struggle but were paid on the side by Smith's regime to betray their comrades.

The judges pitiful salaries and conditions of living were advanced as proof enough that they could sell out for the right amount of money.

It was not only Roy Bennett's case that led to the meeting on Saturday. The issue of the throwing out of the case against Jestina Mukoko was also another one thrown into the ring as evidence that the judges in Zimbabwe are working actively to reverse what the freedom fighters of the 1970s worked for.

My sources claim that Mugabe (who is meeting with Joseph Kabila right now, as I write this-its about 5:30p.m.- in Harare) was unaware of the meeting.

Most of you will recall that this same group prevailed on Mugabe to fire the judicious Judges of the previous bench, including Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay, who was threatened by War Veterans in his own chambers and was informed by Mugabe that his security could not be guaranteed. Gubbay resigned within weeks of that incident with Joseph Chinotimba, the self-styled "Commander of Farm Invasions". 

It is not clear what action the hardliners want Mugabe to take. Could it be that they are urging him to do the same as was done with Gubbay and others? These men remain in the shadows, using proxies to fight their battles and paying them handsomely for their efforts (Chinotimba, a former municipal security guard, now cruises around town in a Jeep Cherokee and sometimes a black BMW X5!).

Their modus operandi is to start by talking and trying to reason with the judges concerned. When this fails, they then send in the heavy artillery and the gloves basically come off. But very soon, you will start to see pressure being put on the "errant" judges.

I understand that Mugabe has told Morgan Tsvangirai before that the hardliners try to use muscle, brawn, and he counters them by using brains: basically trying to frustrate them in the courts, as was the case with Mutumwa Mawere, whose businesses in Zimbabwe were targeted by some of these elements and Mugabe has been, even my Mawere's own accounts, trying to outfox the men in the courts and using the law.

It gives credence to the widely held belief within the MDC (especially since they joined government), that Mugabe does not really have the true power of a dictatorial president and is walking a fine line within his own party, trying to balance competing interests without letting the whole thing blow up in his face.

Some of us are skeptical: Mugabe hold ultimate power and is surrounded by a Praetorian Guard that would not let any harm come to him or his position in the party and the country. The image of a a great bird with a faked lame wing comes to mind. And Mugabe is proving very convincing in that role.

Now we watch and wait.


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