2017 :A YEAR OF THRILLS, DRAMA AND ARRESTS
The 2017 legal year was full of thrills and drama with the arrests of high-profile politicians and appointments and firing of top judicial officials, making news headlines.
Without a doubt, politics kept the courts busy this year with the rise and fall of some Zanu PF stalwarts, particularly from the G40 camp.
The year 2017 will be known as one in which the now-decimated G40 faction in the ruling Zanu PF reportedly led by beleaguered former First Lady Grace Mugabe temporarily took control of the justice system and influenced the arrests of the rival Team Lacoste loyalists, who were pushing for the ascendency of then Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
As the year progressed, the camp collapsed and its ring leaders Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwao, Mandiitawepi Chimene, among others fled in all directions in foreign lands, fearing retributive arrests.
War vets, Mnangagwa allies.
The year also saw the case in which war veterans leaders – Victor Matemadanda, Douglas Mahiya, Headman Moyo, Samuel Bhila and Francis Nhando – accused of insulting then President Robert Mugabe, crumbled.
Matemadanda was again arrested on two different occasions on allegations of insulting Grace.
However, the State withdrew its case this month, saying the docket had taken too long at the Prosecutor-General’s Office, and this was after Mnangagwa became President.
Zanu PF youths linked to Mnangagwa were also arrested on many occasions this year among them former Mashonaland Central youth chairperson Godfrey Tsenengamu, musician Energy Mutodi of the I am the Boss cup fame and Magura Charumbira, who made headlines for booing Grace during one of the vindictive youth interface rallies at White City Stadium in Bulawayo.
Tsenengamu, who was facing allegations of subverting a constitutionally-elected government and insulting Grace, had all his charges dropped by the State this month.
Charumbira’s case is likely to die a natural death after Mugabe was dislodged from power.
Moyo, despite the $430 000 fraud allegations levelled against him, fought his arrest on the political arena and was allegedly protected by Grace from going to court for his initial remand after he was arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.
The former Higher Education minister’s case almost claimed the scalp of Prosecutor-General Ray Goba, who was briefly fired at Moyo’s instigation, with his G40 rivals claiming he had been appointed unprocedurally.
Goba, who is widely perceived as a Mnangagwa ally was however, reinstated following the collapse of the cabal and intervention of the High Court last month.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba succeeded the late former Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku after coming out tops in interviews conducted by the Judicial Service Commission, beating several contestants, among them the commission’s secretary Justice Rita Makarau who came second.
The military’s Operation Restore Legacy towards the tail-end of the year saw the arrest of several “G40 criminals” surrounding Mugabe.
These included former Zanu PF national youth leaders Kudzanai Chipanga and Innocent Hamandishe, ex-Finance minister Ignatius Chombo, former Midlands Provincial Affairs minister Jason Machaya, former Mines minister Walter Chidakwa and former Mines permanent secretary Francis Gudyanga on various allegations.
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai also took former Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko to court demanding $2 million defamation damages for comments he made while addressing a Zanu PF provincial leadership in Bulawayo that the opposition leader participated in the infamous Gukurahundi massacres.
Several men of the cloth also appeared in court on different allegations, ranging from fraud and rape among other offences.
While some were eventually acquitted, others were not so lucky as they were convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences ranging from 10 to 60 years.
Five-Fold Ministries Church pastor Admire Maurukira (29), who raped a 21-year-old congregant and gave her anointing oil in a bid to silence her, was sentenced to 60 years’ imprisonment by Harare magistrate Hosiah Mujaya in November this year.
Another 39-year-old Harare cleric for His Grace Ministries, Onbert Mapfumo was also jailed 28 years for raping four married women from his flock.
Mapfumo made headlines when he admitted to rape in a live radio programme.
Victory World International Ministries Pastor Paul Sanyangore was also arrested in connection with the assault of his cousin, who reportedly exposed his fake miracles.
Sanyangore’s docket however did not reach the court, but his cousin Andy Zimunya confirmed that he had laid charges against the clergman.
Due to the country’s harsh economic environment, celebrities such as journalist Oscar Pambuka, dendera musician Sulumani Chimbetu, gospel divas Fungisayi Zvakavapano Mashavave, Elias Musakwa and Tererai Mugwadi, Nesango hitmaker Clive Malunga and broadcaster Tichafa Matambanadzo, also made a beeline to the courts, facing various charges ranging from fraud, accumulating child maintenance arrears, road accidents, assault and public violence.
Footballers and soccer administrators among them former Premier Soccer League administrator Twine Phiri, Caps United player Moses Muchenje, former Highlanders and Harare City football club player Misheck Mburayi were also brought to the dock for defaulting in child maintenance areas, negligent driving and robbery charges, respectively.
Courts round-up would be incomplete without mention of rights activists Evan Mawarire, Promise Mkwananzi and Linda Masarira’s frequent visits to the courtroom on allegations of plotting to subvert the government.
The courts also made landmark rulings in the cases of Econet wireless’s Kwese TV’s bid to be licensed, lawyer Tendai Biti’s legal action to ban child marriages and “aliens” challenge to be allowed to register as potential voters in next year’s general elections.