Regional anti-graft body, Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-Southern Africa), has ordered President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa to stop meddling in judicial affairs ahead of the Constitutional Court’s sitting to decide on an election petition filed by opposition MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa.

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In a statement, ACT-Southern Africa, said it was concerned that the Executive arms of government could interfere with the Judiciary ahead of the landmark case, particularly following Mnangagwa’s tweet last week, where he claimed to have influenced the courts to release MDC Alliance principal, Tendai Biti.

The anti-graft body’s co-ordinator, Alouis Chaumba, said Mnangagwa’s tweet was unfortunate and pointed to the fact that the Judiciary could be captured.

“By saying that he ‘intervened’, it means that he instructed the court to release Biti on bail. The President’s interference sends worrying messages since section 164 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe prohibits any such interference with the Judiciary. The State nor any institution or agent of the government at any level, and no other person, may interfere with the functioning of the courts,” he said.

Chaumba said Mnangagwa violated the Constitution and should have been told in no uncertain terms by the Judiciary to stay out.

“What is crystal clear is that President Mnangagwa violated the Constitution by instructing the court to release Biti. The independence, impartiality and effectiveness of the courts are central to the rule of law and democratic governance. This is just a tip that he may interfere with the Judiciary in the election petition, which will force all of us to get worried,” he said.

“Now, it is becoming clear that President-elect Mnangagwa interfered with the operations of Zec [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission], which explains why Zec subverted the will of the people and hence the current contestations. Zec has been captured,” he said.

Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) president Misheck Hogwe also said Mnangagwa’s statements presented a challenge in the administration of justice, as they reflected an interference in both the operations of the police and Prosecutor-General (PG)’s Office.

“If the statement is true, it’s very unfortunate because it insinuates that the President either interfered with the police, or the [Prosecutor-General] PG’s Office so that bail was not opposed. If that is what happened, obviously it was improper. What is expected is that the President should allow the office of the PG to operate freely and excise their own judgment. Obviously, from a rule of law’s perspective, it is cause for concern,” he said.

Chamisa’s lead lawyer Thabani Mpofu also raised red flags, saying there could be intentions to undermine the independence of the Judiciary.

“Because of the acts that I complain about, there is also going to be an attempt to harass and intimidate those who must determine this application,” he said.

“We call upon the harassers to desist from that. Judicial independence is at the heart of our democracy. Judicial independence is at the heart of our processes and I will also wish to say it is only when that independence is attacked that its essence comes out. So may all the institutions, may all the systems and all personnel involved ensure that there is going to be independence.”

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