10 August 2018
. . . Should laws be selective?
THIS week has presented the nation with two high profile cases before the courts, Wicknell Chivayo’s and Tendai Biti’s.
While many are celebrating the incarceration of Chivayo, already convicting him over the $5 million scandal, they are calling for Biti’s freedom, describing the latter’s case as political persecution.
Chivayo was denied bail at the Harare magistrates’ court with the magistrate ruling that he was a flight risk who was nabbed at the airport. This is despite the fact that he had a return ticket.
Several commentators on political lines, were calling for Biti’s release despite his attempts to flee the country.
Chivayo was taken from a Joburg bound flight at Robert Mugabe International Airport and detained on the basis that he was evading arrest as he had not made any attempts to present himself to the law authorities.
It is one of the reasons bail was denied at Rotten Row as Chivayo was deemed a flight risk.
Biti, despite having knowledge of a warrant of arrest on allegations of inciting violence and violating the electoral law by allegedly announcing election results before the official announcement, was seeking asylum to Zambia.
His asylum bid hit a snag and he was handed back to the Zimbabwean authorities which was met with severe criticism by his sympathisers who claimed he was being deported to face political persecution.
In denying Biti asylum, Zambian Foreign Minister Dora Siliya wrote: “Govt denied Tendai Biti asylum because no breakdown of law & order in Zimbabwe. Citizens’ lives not under threat reason no influx of asylum seekers. SADC said elections free and fair. Post-election violence suspects (6 died) to appear before courts and is internal matter.”
She added, “Biti not deported but handed back as he had not gained entry into Zambia. His handover documents processed on 8 August while his court order against his return processed on 9 August 2018.”
Last week the internet again celebrated the incarceration of former energy minister Samuel Undenge on US$12 000 scandal.
Despite Undenge’s claims of political persecution, it fell on deaf ears with many calling on him to face the music.
This however, gives the impression that something is deemed political persecution only when it affects those in the opposition.
Former finance minister Ignatius Chombo and ZANU PF youth secretary Kudzanai Chipanga found themselves in a similar position, playing the political persecution card but again it was ignored and now it is Biti and it should be heard?
In other cases, bail has been obtained at the High Court (Chivayo yet to be bailed) and in this case, they feel it should just be automatic.
Despite all the Biti drama, he was granted bail $5 000 at the courts and what are they going to say?
When news of Biti being handed back to the authorities broke, there were screams of fear, claims of torture and harassment, with his lawyers writing to the police with several demands.
He has been granted bail and the question on several people’s mouths is what was he running away from?
As it stands, Biti is not a saint and should be treated the same as other suspects and given no special treatment.
Lawyer and political commentator Alex Magaisa did a twitter thread sharing his opinion on the Biti arrest.
“1. The treatment of @BitiTendai is political persecution disguised as law enforcement. That’s the case when law is applied selectively between political actors. Unfortunately for Zimbabwe more damage is done to the country’s reputation by the way this regime has treated him.
“2. Around the world, the arrest and detention of @BitiTendai will be seen as political. It will further cement the view that the Mnangagwa administration is no different from its predecessor, under Mugabe. Political persecution will be seen as a continuing feature #ElectionsZW
“3. There are ZANU PF politicians who have said outrageous and inflammatory statements, declaring that the army would never let the opposition win/rule. One even urged the deployment of soldiers last week & citizens were killed. Absolutely nothing happened to them. #ElectionsZW” he wrote.
Former education minister David Coltart also tweeted, “The extent this regime will go to persecute patriots, accused of spurious charges, whilst at the same time turning a blind eye to people who have directed the murder of innocent civilian bystanders by the military, is truly shocking. Not surprised – its always been ZANU PF’s DNA.”
He also had his voice on the issue of bail, “This is good news. Given the spurious nature of the charges I trust he will be released on bail this afternoon. Any opposing of bail will be a travesty. Tendai has never worried about the charges – his reason for going to Zambia was to avoid torture by people other than police.”
Foreigners also joined in the saga, also arguing on political grounds, ignoring the criminal element as alleged by the police.
Norton parliamentarian Temba Mliswa believes Biti is not sacred and should face the law just like another person.
“Chidziva was investigated & cleared why would Biti try to evade the police in such a manner & then seek sympathy? MDCA in general should stop being cry-babies. We’ve suffered coz of sanctions that have hit the ordinary person & if USA can’t be objective they should back off,” he tweeted.
Mliswa added, “The reason Zambia denied Biti asylum is because there was a warrant of arrest against him & therefore they couldn’t grant it as he was absconding.”
Controversial activist Acie Lumumba added his voice “I’m only concerned that Biti psyched up everyone to demonstrate and even suggested that he was “prepared to die on the streets of Harare” but then leaves the country to seek asylum in Zambia…”
Another commentator on social media Lloyd Msipa believes Biti is an attention seeking individual.
“Biti has a penchant for unnecessary theatrics to grab international headlines. If he wanted to seek political asylum in Zambia he could have safely entered the Zambian Embassy in Harare to declare his intent. He could have chosen UK or US Embassy in Harare,” he tweeted.