Why is ED afraid of live streaming court cases? -Newsday Zimbabwe
Something happened in Zanu PF in 2017. The play is about to be performed in court.
So many skeletons will jump out of the political closet. It is understandable why President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his team do not want a live broadcast of the trial.
After the 2017 coup, Zanu PF not only shredded the national constitution, but also trampled on its constitution. Mnangagwa’s rise was unorthodox.
Under the national constitution, then-Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko was to serve as President until the party proposed another person to Parliament.
Zanu PF, as the ruling party, should have held an extraordinary congress to elect a new leader.
All these processes were accelerated and Mnangagwa awoke at the head of the party. Many thanks to the power of the barrel of the gun. It was a coup d’etat.
However, among some members of Zanu PF there were those who called for adherence to the party constitution.
Among them is Sybeth Musengezi. Musengezi, offended by Mnangagwa’s appointment without due process, has appealed to the Supreme Court, the court with unlimited jurisdiction in the country. It can hear any matter.
Musengezi, in his founding affidavit, argues that Mnangagwa’s ascension to Zanu PF president was illegal.
He wants the court to find the process flawed and ask the party to abide by its constitution.
His legal challenge has kindled fire and brimstone within the party. Others have gone ballistic, accusing the youth league member of being sponsored by disgruntled G40 members.
Since then he has been persecuted, taken to court on trumped-up charges and some even claimed he was never a member of the party.
However, the courts have ruled that he has the locus standi. He can sue in this matter.
In other words, Musengezi is a genuine member of Zanu PF. His deployment by the G40 is a matter of political conjecture.
The High Court has now set October 3, 2022 as the date for the hearing in Harare. It should be put in context that Goodson Nguni, a former commissioner for the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), has since filed an application and received approval for a jointer in the case. Nguni wants to be part of the defendants in the case.
Curiously, Nguni was ZACC officer at the time of the coup. According to the constitution, commissars cannot be active political party members.
It is questionable how he found out about what was happening in Zanu PF. The answer is lazy, it stinks to high heaven.
Some independent commissars dabble in party politics and are not ashamed to take off their party jackets and speak openly in court.
As a member of Zanu PF, Musengezi knows how the party has manipulated the media in the past.
He wants the trial to be broadcast live so that all party members and other interested parties can hear the case for themselves.
Musengezi’s lawyer Nqobani Sithole said everyone must have access to the process.
“Tomorrow we come back to make a request that we would like this matter to be live streamed on October 3rd for everyone to have access to. Remember that Zanu PF is a large and colossal party, they say, so anything that happens in this court should be known to everyone and therefore it is our considered view that it will be in everyone’s best interests”, said Sithole.
That’s a fair point, after all, justice shouldn’t just be done, it should be seen.
Important cases are now streamed live in many jurisdictions around the world.
Last but not least, this case meets the criterion to be suitable for live streaming.
Not surprisingly, Nguni is opposed to the trial being streamed live.
“We want all journalists in the courtroom and you write what you see but you can’t live stream, they want to politicize it.
“We cannot allow them to continue politically to damage our party and he can afford that because he (Musengezi) is not a member of our party,” Nguni said.
Even if Musengezi loses this request to live stream the trial, it is up to the media to file a request with the court as it is in the public interest.
Mainstream media in Zimbabwe should seize the opportunity, be proactive and seek that permission early.
The case has far-reaching ramifications across the country, especially if Musengezi’s argument is upheld by the court.
Incidentally, this is not the first case in which the High Court has ruled on succession within political parties.
In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that Nelson Chamisa’s rise to the helm of the MDC Alliance then came outside the party’s constitution.
It’s easier to understand why Zanu PF doesn’t want it to be live streamed.
In fact, she never wanted this case to go to court. Now that it’s here, we won’t be surprised that they might even suggest that the evidence should be kept private.
Closing this case like the MDC Alliance will help enshrine intra-party democratic values.
It will make many appreciate the value of constitutionalism. Never again should popularity or power be abused to circumvent constitutions.
It’s a lesson that will be painful for some, especially those close to the top of the table who could lose their grip.
However, robust debate and compliance with the constitution should be the guide.
Hopefully the High Court will not reserve judgment until after the 2023 election.
Paidamoyo Muzulu is a Harare-based journalist. He writes here in his personal capacity.