The week we all became legal experts

THE decision by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to allow the live screening of the Presidential election petition in the Constitutional Court (Concourt) gave the nation an appreciation of how legal proceedings go.

Many, who had never been inside a courtroom, got a front seat place through the national broadcaster ZBC television and radio stations plus a number of online streaming sites.

The ever humorous Zimbabweans were in usual form, taking titbits from the proceedings and making witty jokes and even T-shirts out of them.

It was a week where words and phrases like “locus standi”, “Qui facit per alium facit per se”, “induciae” and “in limine” among others were employed in conversations in an unprecedented manner.

Had someone lost on context walked on the streets of Harare or read conversations in many WhatsApp groups, they would have assumed Zimbabwe is a law-mad nation.

“My Lady, My Lord,” were the trending phrases adopted from lawyers who used them continuously throughout the court hearing.

A kombi conductor asking for his fare from passengers exhibited his knowledge gained from the court session.

“My Ladies, My Lords may all the respondents provide primary evidence?”
By primary evidence, he meant the 50 cents kombi fare.

Just like how many were called and a few were chosen, there are those who listened through the proceedings, but grasped very little.

A shuttle driver who plies the City-Newlands route claimed that the legal jargon had put the greater chunk of proceedings beyond his comprehension.

Tawanda Kanengoni

“Before the court case, I assumed that the exchanges will be in folk-tale form, but it turned out they were speaking in another language altogether. All I kept hearing were references of the Mugabe and Tsvangirai case as well as the word respondent, V11, primary and secondary evidence,” he said.

The Internet humour mill worked overtime, during and after the hearing. Lawyers were graded and evaluated on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

In the court room unfolded what many have described as a spectacular display. First to be on the spotlight, 31-year-old lawyer Regina Mabwe shone like an isolated beacon.

Among a group of male lawyers, most of them seasoned, she stood her place.

Although she faced an uphill task, she charmed many with her fighting spirit batting questions from the judges in a manner that exhibited resoluteness.

Facebook was awash with comments on her.

One Ano-Admire Mashumba wrote: “Gina Mabwe for #NoahManyika did very well during her submission. The learned lady is the reason why female lawyers shouldn’t be ignored. Excellent argument brought forward by this lady during #WomensMonth #ConstitutionalCourt #CourtAppeal.”

The Constitutional Court (Concourt) also saw interesting scenes as the proceedings went on.
One Monika Chanda on Facebook also applauded Gina Mabwe.

“I always respect women who practise in fields dominated by males, nothing but salute to this young woman making her history and now her name will be among some of the great minds. #GinaMabwe,” she said.

In the run up to the court case, many who follow local legal proceedings made it seem like a Thabani Mpofu and Lewis Uriri duel.

Both advocates showed why the anticipation was on them they brought their best to the bar and kept the nation engaged.

But the star of the show was neither of the two, a sharp legal mind whose name had not been said much in the build up to the case.

Tawanda Kanengoni proved his class with softly delivered but lucid submissions which were commended even by the Chief Justice himself.

Lewis Uriri

In all, it was a showcase of the legal intelligence in Zimbabwe and the screening gave the country an appreciation into the quality of the human resource it possesses.

Former zanu-pf National Assembly member Daniel Shumba also brought comic relief to courtroom.
He was a self-actor (represented himself) claiming that he had insights which could aid the case.

However, the bench appeared uninterested in whatever he had to say, not even a single interjection was made.
Shumba’s crack at fame was in vain as the court expunged his submission together with other applicants who like him, had not properly filed their papers before the court.

He was relegated to watching from the gallery just like perennial election candidate Egypt Dzinemunhenzva who made a cameo appearance.

Now that the Constitutional Court has upheld Emmerson Mnangagwa’s victory, we wait for the next point of expertise for Zimbabweans.

I wonder which caps we will wear next, maybe speculating on who will constitute the cabinet while we await its announcement.
It will be a long time before the legal jargon is washed off the tongues of many.

Terms like V-11, primary evidence, respondent, burden of proof will be part of Zimbabwean vocabulary for a while. Don’t be surprised dear reader to see some kombies emblazoned ‘’In Limine’’ etc

Just like we have seen crazes come and go, 2018 may as well be christened the year of the V-11.
The year numerous Press conferences were held, special weapons, so-called smoking guns (of evidence) were promised and “piths” were enunciated.

The nation was watching, aided by their wit as democracy showed its beautiful colours.

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