JOHANNESBURG – Apartheid in South Africa was a system that blatantly discriminated against non-whites in almost all facets of life. It was a system that became so entrenched in society to the extent that the beneficiaries saw it as an almost God – ordained status quo, so much so that up to today, it can be argued that most erstwhile beneficiaries in South Africa still silently pine for it, while some overtly call for its revival, albeit in veiled ways.
The recent noise and court challenge about Afrikaans being the language of instruction at Stellenbosch University being one case in point. The spats of racism and racial murders of black people in Krugersdorp and Ventersdorp; and the treatment of black workers by white students at the University of Free State are sad reflections of this reality.
Apartheid, in its day, was enshrined in the legislature of the country running parallel with the political model which the Afrikaner government so fiercely protected. It was an unjust system solidly mounted on legal dictates espoused and signed into law by the regime.
While it is safe to assume that every incumbent government will draft and craft laws that ensure the strength, success and longevity of its tenure, issue should also come to the fore whether said legislation is just or not.
This translates to questioning of political models and how they serve the individual, thus laws and or decrees made within a democracy, a monarchy or theocracy, while reflecting the country’s political ideology, should also, if not primarily, be about improving the lot of the subject(s).
In Zimbabwe this has become a serious issue especially once government’s term of office is drawing to an end or when there is an actual or imagined revolt.
We have seen some devious bills being signed into law. The Rhodesian government seemed to be perfecting the laws whites in South Africa were promulgating; and cultivating a replica of the discrimination in Rhodesia.
1980; enter Zanu PF and a couple of laws that overtly subjugated and excluded the black people were repelled and some amended. However, a few years later, some resurfaced under different names, sometimes even worse than their predecessors, POSA and debatable parts of the Electoral Act being cases in point.
There is a fallacy being peddled by the Zimbabwean government at the moment that being legal equals being just. The interpretation and application of the Supreme Court decision on matters MDC recently are probably best suited to legal experts, but from the sidelines, one notices that there indeed are serious political and especially, justice issues surrounding the case.
The fallacy continues that just because a bill has been passed into law, therefore it is deemed just. Therefore, just because the Supreme Court has made a ruling that does not mean the whole chain is serving the ends of justice.
One is reminded of Advocate Thabani Mpofu’s statement that ‘we are all drinking from a poisoned chalice,’ and those words ring true in the wake of recent events hogging the limelight in Zimbabwean courts and in the political domain.
Control of the arms of government is one of the advantages that incumbency has. At the moment, Zanu PF controls the arms, including the courts/legislature and also how the courts’ decisions are going to be upheld.
The police can, and legally are bound, to enforce the laws of the country even when unjust. It indeed is a moral, legal and political dilemma nations are forced to live with, but hopefully one which will not be a perennial thorn as there should be viable alternatives emerging with time and human development.
This goes to show that the system can be poisoned right from the beginning of the game plan right up to execution but all veiled in legality thus we are witnessing what Alex Magaisa termed ‘lawfare.’
There is a gaping hole in the system we call democracy and we shall use Zimbabwe as a reference.
Due to the fact that Zanu PF has got a two thirds majority in Parliament, there is nothing stopping them from passing laws that are tipped against any potential competitor for national and local government.
Zanu PF MPs can just go to vote, not discuss, but simply vote for a policy or proposed piece of legislation that has origins in the Zanu PF Headquaters. Never mind the repercussions of their actions, let alone how (un)just said action is or can be.
This is simply because they can. And it becomes more apparent when their tenure is under threat because quite frankly, reputation wise, few think they care anymore.
The stringent measures that are put in place for an international correspondent or a journalist from private media house to be accredited in Zimbabwe are cases in point…..and legal in most cases, but grossly unjust.
A few weeks ago it was World Press Freedom Day and that gave voice to some thoughts as expressed here. In Zimbabwe today, media practitioners have to be accredited by an agency in the clutches of the government so much so that a license to operate is granted or denied based on whether you support the ruling party’s narrative or not.
A later betrayal has seen some journalists subjected to torture and arbitrary arrests. Edward Chikombo, Itai Dzamara (where is this man) and Jestina Mukoko being just a few prominent examples.
Several journalists and activists from foreign lands have been deported because they revealed and reported on our government’s injustices. One is reminded of the Miscellaneous Offenses Act which can be used to arrest almost anyone for anything deemed unlawful, even pointing at the Presidential motorcade or looking in the direction of the State House especially during Mugabe’s ruinous tenure, but has anything really changed since Mr Mnangagwa took over?
All laws, by nature, should be restrictive that is a given, but the restrictions should not be at the detriment of individual and especially national progress.
We have witnessed over the past twenty years especially, systematic capture of the nation and the country slipping into a quagmire, and almost all this has been masked in legality.
We have seen Statutory Instruments being issued which further push the country towards a precipice and bind the Zimbabwean in chains.
Philip Mukarati is a Zimbabwean freelance journalist currently based in South Africa.