Why I Don’t Support #FreeHopewell

Hopewell Chin’ono in Court

What the world still needs to understand is that borders are powerful creations. They affect so many things and variations in geographical vicinities. By merely crossing a bridge, fence or walkway across a border, one can move from freedom to war, from hunger to plenty. One can move from a third world society into a first world country, from a secular society into an extremist caliphate. No matter how drastic or little the disparities are, these are changes and they are real changes.

By Robert Sigauke

The most important effect of borders is of course the idea of sovereign and territorial integrity. What this means is that countries are given a privilege to determine the factors and modes around their existence. Governance, economics, law, relations with neighbours, religion, societal norms and such other. These are the preserve of these autonomous creations. One of the most debated issues of the 20th running into the 21st, has been the consistent influence, achieved or attempted, by the United States in jurisdictions that are beyond their borders and territorial threat. The US has ran into so many and pumped in so many dollars into self initiated wars and insurrections that on so many grounds the world has questioned the real motives that inform American foreign policy.

The existence of borders means that no country has a right to interfere in the affairs of another country unless invited, or there is provision of international protocol to do so, humanitarian or such other. Without there being any of the two, such interference is detested, amounts to unprovoked aggression, irritation and against the tenets of national sovereignty accorded to all nations. Zanu PF governments have practised this virtue without fail, they do not interfere into domestic affairs of other countries unless specifically invited to do so by that country or through an international protocol.

It then boggles the mind how and why the outside world particularly the West, would think they have the authority to order another country to dance to its whim at the snap of a finger. It is really hard to fathom, to think that another country can order another country to release arrested people outside its functional judicial process, just because they think the motives are political. The executive, legislature and even Zanu PF, do not have the power to order that a certain prisoner be released outside a judicial process. You do not break the law then run amok crying that there is a crisis in the country when you are brought to book, it does not work that way.

The rights movements #FreeHopewell and #ZimbabweLivesMatter are also caught up in this whirlwind. I personally think these movements have turned emotion into a self-deceiving state of mind that they fail to realise the warped nature of their objectives. Of course, I will sustain what I think should be and what is but should not be. We must be able to be objective about things and not use emotions, that is how we will move forward as a people. To set the record straight, we all want a clean and transparent government, we all want a society where civil liberties are respected and given effect to.

Our Zimbabwean story has not been a perfect one with regards to this realisation, we all yearn for that to happen by design or default and we want it now. But in the same way that we demand rights, let it be with the same strength and spirit that we hold ourselves accountable for our own indiscretions in relation to those same rights. The objectives of these movements must not be the unconditional release of one who broke the law, but must be objectives to clean up the country by bringing to book all who break the law including those implicated in the Drax saga.

The movements demand the release of a journalist unconditionally because he exposed the flawed tender processes of the government and for that only, he can do no wrong. Unless and until people are honest and transparent with themselves they will move in whirlwinds, Zanu PF ichingo tonga. The opposition, its friends in the civic society and mushroom hashtag movements have always been dogged by student type politics of emotion and sheepish behaviour.

This is why Zanu PF beats the nonsense out of them on each turn as the ruling party sits down, maintains its composure, studies and strategises, then executes with precision. Have we reduced ourselves to the level where a whole big deputy chair of a main movement records videos eating sadza in the bush saying he is hiding from state agents? Did he ever think maybe the state agents are already following the woman who brings the sadza from his known rural homestead to the tree where he only goes when he wants to record himself a video? I think this is utterly childish.

The Covid tender expose was a win for government accountability and transparency, thanks to Hopewell. Minister Obadiah Moyo was fired and is facing charges for that. We call on the government to arrest and investigate all the people that were involved into this saga and let them defend themselves before the courts. But let not the hashtag movements forget that the law operates within a parallel parameter and whoever goes outside the bounds, outcast or saint, is bound to have their skin burnt. Let us really not pretend that Hopewell has no case to answer, he has and we all know it. Let us not use emotions here, we all know the regulations to restrict and limit some fundamental rights were placed for a reason, for good reason for that matter.

We are at war with the pandemic and any restrictions put in place are to contain the pandemic and protect the people. We are crying that the hospitals are in a deplorable state, the staff is on strike and we have a Ministry that is still reeling from a tender saga, it is not safe to go to the hospital at the moment and social distancing rules are the most effective way right now to contain this pandemic and save lives. In all that health crisis, we then have a leadership that calls for people to come in their thousands and risk getting infected, all to demand that 40-50 staff members at the Ministry of health be arrested for corruption. In other terms, we have found it better to condemn almost 20 000 people to possible death, and commit a crime by gathering against the law, all for sending a message that a handful of officials must be arrested?

Rights can be limited under certain allowed circumstances as provided in 86(2) and 87(1) of the constitution, and once limited any trespass amounts to transgression of the law, which is criminal. Organising a protest during a lockdown is criminal, inciting people to protest and participate in an illegal demonstration is criminal too. It does not matter if the people ignore you and do not protest, but if you incited the offence is complete if proven. This is what Hopewell failed to realise and the many lawyers who surround him did not advise but instead let him take the lead for their own selfish ends as the incitement was to cause public rage against the government.

Many in his corner failed to realise too, that in an endeavour to prove that the government’s hands are dirty, you do not make your hands dirty as well as that will make both parties the same as each other. Many protested that Mugabe’s hands were dirty, but they also in turn dirtied their own hands by assisting the illegal removal of Mugabe by protesting and running amok in the streets to threaten Mugabe to resign. I guess nobody was a saint anymore, maybe not Mugabe, but certainly not the people on the street. You do not dirty your hands to prove that the person you are pointing a finger to has dirty hands. Hopewell must have his day in court, if he is innocent the courts will vindicate him, if not, the law shall govern. The corrupt officials in the Drax saga must be arrested too and have their day in court. If politics play a factor, mhosva hairovi.

Robert Sigauke is a Political Commentator. He writes from Johannesburg – robert.carl@rocketmail.com