It's the security sector, stupid!

There has been a lot of talk in Zimbabwe recently about constitutionality and constitutionalism – about how to ensure that the country’s new Supreme Law is not co-opted and corrupted by the powers-that-be as the current constitution has been and that Zimbabweans enjoy the rule OF law not rule BY law. Nothing could have highlighted the importance of this debate as acutely as the wrongful arrest and illegal detention of renowned lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa – the day after the country’s constitutional referendum.

Richard Lee's picture

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Strategic communications for WWF

March 18th, 2013

There has been a lot of talk in Zimbabwe recently about constitutionality and constitutionalism – about how to ensure that the country’s new Supreme Law is not co-opted and corrupted by the powers-that-be as the current constitution has been and that Zimbabweans enjoy the rule OF law not rule BY law. Nothing could have highlighted the importance of this debate as acutely as the wrongful arrest and illegal detention of renowned lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa – the day after the country’s constitutional referendum.

While Zimbabweans were waiting for the final results, the police – who increasingly resemble a law unto themselves, even though the top echelons still swear (very) public allegiance to President Mugabe – were raiding offices of Prime Minister Tsvangirai. And if that were not enough – they proceeded to arrest Beatrice when she demanded to see their warrant. She was then carted off to prison. And kept in custody even after the High Court had ordered her release.

The police’s actions in this instance are so astonishingly outside of the law as to beggar belief – had they not acted in a similar way on so many previous occasions. And while there is condemnation from far and wide – there has been nothing from the people that matter: Mugabe, Tsvangirai, South African President Zuma and the leadership of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Every time the police get away with ‘murder’, they are emboldened. They know that they can even arrest someone as well-known as Beatrice (and aides to the PM!) because no one has brought them to book over their earlier partisan crimes and misdemeanours. And with elections due in a few months, the police – and other security services – are only going to get worse. They have shown that they do not care about what is written on a piece of paper – even if it is the constitution - and are clearly bent on continuing to violate Zimbabweans’ right to freely vote for the government of their choice.

Someone needs to say 'enough is enough' to Zimbabwe's lawless security services. Mugabe won't do it. Tsvangirai can't do it. Do SADC's leaders have the guts?

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