Tag Archives: transitional justice

Robert Mugabe full immunity – so now he goes scot free?

26 Nov

The Zimbabwe “coup not a coup” came and went. Emmerson Mnangagwa is now the President of Zimbabwe taking over from Robert Mugabe who had ruled with an iron fist for 37 years. Mnangagwa has a lot to deal with: plans to secure the next election for his party and Presidency; a new Cabinet to run for the next 6 – 8 months among other key issues. The new President should be very careful how he maneuvers this period before the next election otherwise the voters will give him a shocker. In fact, he runs the risk of being the shortest ever serving President in Zimbabwe if he does not play his cards right. A more odious challenge will continue to haunt his reign: What to do with Robert Mugabe with regards his alleged crimes of human rights violations and kleptocracy. News has it that in the negotiations to secure his stepping down, Robert Mugabe was offered full immunity in Zimbabwe from prosecution for his family and himself. One sees political expediency on the part of Mnangagwa not wanting to be seen to be retributive after their Lacoste vs G40 factional wars in ZANU PF. However, this position is problematic as it seemingly does not respect Zimbabwean laws and neither the wishes of Zimbabweans who would like to see Robert Mugabe held accountable for his myriad of crimes committed during his reign.

In the interim the bigger question is on what should be done to Robert Mugabe and his cronies who plundered Zimbabwe and committed human rights violations.

Immunity – what immunity and who gave it anyway?

It is quite interesting to note that the news Robert Mugabe was given full immunity for wrongs committed during his reign is being given so much prominence in the news and elsewhere. The issue of immunity post Robert Mugabe’s Presidency has always been on the table for as long as anyone who has tried to convince Robert Mugabe to step down can remember. There are different views with regards this matter.

One can only imagine that the army and Emmerson Mnangagwa would have agreed to this deal because Robert Mugabe is one of their own. They would not want to be seen to be vindictive. More importantly, going after Robert Mugabe has the unwanted potential of unravelling issues about themselves as well with regards corruption and human rights violations (unotsvaga n’anga neinobata mai).

The question that begs answers and must be answered promptly is whether the said immunity granted to Robert Mugabe has any legal status per Zimbabwe’s laws? It cannot be morally or legally right whether for political expediency or national stability that a settlement be reached only by the army, ZANU PF represented by Mnangagwa and Robert Mugabe alone on his fate with regards such serious allegations of ill-gotten wealth and human rights violations.

This question now needs to be interpreted by the courts as well discussed by civil society groups in Zimbabwe to ascertain the legal status of such immunity. If indeed, the said immunity has any binding legal status, would it not need to be promulgated into a law consistent with Zimbabwe’s constitution.

Food for thought!

Sixes and sevens on Robert Mugabe’s immunity

Various interviews have shown opposition leaders such as Morgan Tsvangirai and Tendai Biti expressing opinions that Robert Mugabe should be left to retire in peace. While it is important that these leaders express their views on this matter, one hopes that they are personal opinions. Without a clear and transparent process of seeking the views of the people, political leaders cannot purport to give such stances on behalf of the people.

Robert Mugabe’s past is tainted with egregious records of human rights violations which were reportedly committed in his name as Head of State, Head of security services as well as ZANU PF party leader. State coffers were plundered left right and center by his officials using his name in most instances or by virtue of his perceived protection. It would be difficult for anyone to fathom a general immunity being to such a person.

Opposition forces, civil society organizations as well as the rest of Zimbabweans need to critically think about the implications of Robert Mugabe’s purported immunity. Moreover, people who were around Robert Mugabe will need to be held accountable. If as much as they implicate Robert Mugabe when they are under investigations or trial what will that mean for them being held accountable? The potential of any investigation being halted because it has encroached onto Robert Mugabe’s turf will be very real.

Who to hold accountable. Robert Mugabe the system or Robert Mugabe the person?

Robert Mugabe is old and almost senile. Chasing him will not yield much against his own person. However, it must be made clear that what needs to be held accountable is more of the system he prevailed upon. In the spirit of ubuntu it will make sense to argue that Robert Mugabe – the 93-year-old man should be left alone. However, for Robert Mugabe the corrupt and violent system, total immunity should and cannot be an option.

Civil society organizations and opposition political parties need to remain seized with this matter and take it head on. Arguments will be made that Zimbabwe needs to be rebuilt and the prevailing peace should not be derailed. One is of the opinion though that these arguments are defective and throw away principled reasoning. If ZANU PF through Emmerson Mnangagwa wants to give Robert Mugabe immunity then it should be a political party choice not a national choice that has legal implications barring the rest of the country from questioning Robert Mugabe’s past.

Infact, one would expect that by now that legal challenges would have started flowing to the courts to question the legality of this said immunity for Robert Mugabe. More importantly, those aggrieved should also even now start preparing court cases against whatever violations they have suffered because of Robert Mugabe.

Way forward

Mnangagwa did what he had to do with regards Robert Mugabe’s immunity. This should not however hold any other Zimbabwean back. The immunity granted to Robert Mugabe looks fickle and was meant only to subdue the old man Robert Mugabe, show a ruse of magnanimity to the international community and Robert Mugabe’s friends. There is no doubt that Robert Mugabe the old man needs to be allowed to rest. However, as Zimbabwe moves forward, one of the most important issues will be the question of accountability for past human rights violations including the country’s stolen wealth. It is critical that any stolen funds that Mnangagwa can lay his hands on be returned to the national vaults.

For instance, questions need to be answered about Robert Mugabe’s businesses. Have they been paying taxes to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority? Questions need to be answered about how the Robert Mugabes have secured all the money they flaunt around at home and abroad. If indeed it is genuinely theirs, then they still need to answer questions on whether they have given Zimbabwe’s Caesar her share.

This strategy should apply to the rest of the Robert Mugabe hangers on or as the “criminals around him” as coined by the military. Their activities need to be investigated. The stolen money needs to be returned to the fiscus and revive the ailing economy.

The charade cannot continue. Mnangagwa has an opportunity under very difficult circumstances to change the tide. Emmerson Mnangagwa can save his mentor Robert Mugabe’s skin for his wrongs but he can at least extract some of the money stolen by Robert Mugabe and his hangers on back into the Zimbabwe fiscus. Therein lies one path to the healing of Zimbabwe and possibly his path to being properly elected as Zimbabwe’s President in 2018.Robert-and-Grace-Mugabe-laughing

Pensions Conversion Commission: Zimbabwe tinkering with justice for past economic rights violations

28 Jul

On 25 July 2015 President Mugabe set up a Commission of Inquiry to probe the process used to convert pensions and insurance benefits following the dollarization of the economy in 2009. This is a welcome development which was long overdue. This process is essential in terms of addressing the mayhem caused to Zimbabwean workers and pensioners during the inflationary Zimbabwe dollar period. Thousands of workers and their dependents lost the real value of their pensions and this lacuna needs government intervention at the least. It would seem the corporate world took advantage of a lax system and benefitted unfairly. This matter raises 3 issues 1) questions on the part of the government of Zimbabwe’s responsibility to give protection to its citizens from rogue private corporate entities; 2) corporate bodies and fair business conduct and 3) the right to remedies for pensioners shortchanged in the process of converting Zimbabwe dollar pensions to the US currency.

The first thing to note in this whole discussion is to admit that the Zimbabwe Government and statutory bodies charged with regulating the Life Insurance and Pensions fraternity failed to “protect” citizens by intervening at the time they were needed the most – when the insurance companies started making unilateral decisions on what rate of exchange and value they would place on pensioners’ contributions. This given, it is important that the government of Zimbabwe realizes henceforth that there is need to come up with a proper plan in the event that problems arise again. This discussion would warrant stricter measures set on institutional reform in the insurance and pensions industry to govern such in the event of an economic collapse, company closures etc.

Furthermore, it will be interesting to juxtapose this discussion on the conversion process and to see what rates will be used to determine the real value of the Pensions as at 2009 and the recently implemented rates used in the highly controversial (https://tchabvuta.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/what-exactly-is-this-animal-called-demonetization-in-zimbabwe/) demonetization process. There will have to be uniformity in purpose on the part of the government in terms of dealing with the lacuna of the wrongs of the past.

Secondly, this development will of course not go down well with business especially the insurance firms who have now been placed at the center of “inquiry”. For a long time after the dollarization process these companies in my view enjoyed undeserved profits from the unilateral conversions they made on pensioners’ contributions. In the event they are found wanting they might have to review their finances and pay out more and this will be contentious on the basis of what laws to follow, what rate to use and so on. However, I believe that this process calls for corporate social responsibility and moral accountability on the part of insurance companies to ensure that they “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”. I am not an economist or finance expert but it honestly does not make sense that one contributes funds into a pension fund which then invests in high rise buildings, stocks and so on and then one day you work up to be told that your contributions have been reduced to half or are not even worth following up because INFLATION devoured the money. It cannot be right!

Thirdly on the part of pensioners, this discussion centers more on the need for redress of the wrongs of the past. To what extent this becomes a matter for transitional justice debate I would not be sure, but I definitely think that there is some merit in placing this issue under the myriad of issues being pursued on transitional justice in Zimbabwe. The matter whilst economic, requires some form of justice in the form of compensation for any losses incurred; it requires restoration of peoples’ confidence in financial institutions and their investments (Institutional Reform) and the need for the truth to come out on what exactly happened during the conversion processes.

The work of the Commission
The work of the Commission is clearly cut out for them and it will be interesting to see how they handle this one on a number of aspects. The statutory instrument establishing makes it clear that the commissioners have jobs for a period of 9 months which can be extended for another 3 months. I find this overly long but well I guess these people know better what and who they have to investigate to get to the bottom of the matter.

Legal Questions: The next question is on a question of operation. To what extent will the findings of the Commission be implementable especially in the light that the insurance companies might be found wanting. The government has advisors and they should have discussed the legal consequences of such processes by now. It will also be interesting to see if the assurance companies can be retroactively held liable if found to be in breach and generally how this will define government’s relationship with corporate bodies in future.

Transparency: Another issue relates to the transparency of this process. Previous Commissions set up to deal with investigations on human rights violations, football stampedes etc. have been a disappointment to the public. The deliberate ploys by government to ignore civil society and offer half – hearted overtures such as the defunct Organ on National Healing and the still born National peace and Reconciliation Commission to handle past human rights violations are well noted. Government has not even considered investigating the high levels of corruption at institutions like the Reserve Bank when senior officials were “burning” money and buying US dollars, the rampant theft of gold, how NGOs and Embassies forex accounts were raided during the peak of the economic crisis etc.

Integrity of the Commissioners: It will be interesting to see what will come out of this body. People like Dr. Kanyenze would be reminded to ensure they maintain their professional and personal integrity and deliver a good job. The 9 member Commission would be well advised as well to ensure that they will be able to live with the realities they will encounter in their investigations and be able to stand up to the “regime” and make the report public. In the event or likelihood that this will not be possible, they are better advised to stand down. Knowing Zimbabwe and the tough times we are in, a good Commissioner’s allowance is not easy to fend off though, so let’s see.

Interrogating Government’s own policies: It will also be important to see and get information on how the government has dealt with own staff and pension funds. This is information that should be in the public domain and government could begin their transparency by giving out such information.
The bottom line is that while the Zimbabwe government can be lauded for coming up with such a process, it would be much more important to have a national dialogue first on these matters to collect views from the nation and all stakeholders. A more robust discussion on transitional justice needs to be held at a national level to discuss what happened during the economic crisis in the years between 1999 – 2008 and a whole host of other pertinent issues is really delayed and must be convened.

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