Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Prof Moyo & Co poisoning Zim society

PROFESSOR Jonathan Nathaniel Moyo, a central Zanu-PF politician, brutally attacked three lawyers and the Prime Minister (PM) of the Republic of Zimbabwe in a so-called opinion piece published in
the Monday June 3 2013 edition of The Herald newspaper under the heading “When lawyers become pedestrian for political expediency.”
The “crime” committed by the lawyers was their expression of views on issues arising out of the Jealousy Mbizvo Mawarire vs Robert Gabriel Mugabe N.O + 4 Others case (CCZ 1/13), wherein the Constitutional Court declared that Zimbabwe’s next harmonised elections should be conducted as soon as possible, and in any event by July 31 2013.
In his article, Moyo referred to the three as “good for nothing lawyers,” then “bush lawyers” and he sought to entrench the “open mouth, shut mind” cliché that he has crafted specially for anti-PM insults.
Moyo’s vitriolic assault on his four targets — Hon. Senator David Coltart, Chris Mhike, Greg Linnington (lawyers), and Rt. Hon Morgan Tsvangirai (PM) was further developed in The Sunday Mail edition of June 9–15 2013, under at least two articles. One was another piece by Moyo entitled: “Tsvangirai’s open zip, open mouth and shut mind,” and the other by Moyo’s comrade Dr Tafataona Mahoso, who penned an equally bellicose expose under the heading: “Lawfare and MDCs’ fear of elections.”
The targeting of lawyers in newspaper columns is not a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe. One of the worst affected victims is eminent lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who is constantly featured in The Herald’s Nathaniel Manheru column, a section that was introduced when Moyo was a Government Minister with significant influence on affairs at Zimpapers — the media house that publishes the newspaper.
Jonathan Moyo & Co (in this article “& Co refers to “and comrades”) have in the past, spewed hateful speech against Mtetwa, to abhorrent and xenophobic levels.
Even judges have fallen victim to the culture of press-based hate speech.
Justice Charles Hungwe’s current woes were preceded by intensive and adverse press coverage.
Of course, Professor Moyo & Co are entitled to their opinions, but they must seriously re-consider the method and language of their communications. In placing their views in the public domain through the mass media, the expression of their views could easily adulterate the flow of information on these platforms from the mass communication form that it should be, into mass destruction; of Zimbabwe’s social, moral or academic fabric.
While there has been massive speculation about Jonathan Moyo & Co’s intimate involvement in the Mawarire case, I will not even bother addressing the legal issues that Moyo raises in his article, for doing so is pointless in the limited space that is available to the writer in this column.
In any event, Moyo is certainly not adequately geared to meaningfully engage with any of the three lawyers that he attacks in his article, in terms of literacy on legal issues. Information at hand from impeccable sources is to the effect that Moyo’s current ambitions beside his quest for ascendency on the political ladder also include enrolment into law school so that he also becomes a lawyer, like three of the targets of his subject Herald article.
However, before Moyo commences his legal studies and completes same, he must perhaps confine himself to political science, and related simple matters, for which he is schooled — then leave the interpretation of law to lawyers. If he insists on participating in discourse on law, then he must do so in more civilised language.
In the June 3, 2013, article he seeks, as he has done in previous commentary, to present himself as a guru in legal matters. The State-controlled media often includes Moyo’s interpretations in stories headlined “. . . say Legal Experts.” Now he believes that his own layman’s views are more credible than the training-and-practice based interpretations of lawyers.
What is more worrisome though is the fact that the language used by Jonathan Moyo & Co in their attacks on lawyers, MDC politicians, and other citizens, is gravely harmful to the peace, integrity and harmony of Zimbabwean society. The culture of violence and insult on account of difference in opinion is poisonous to Zimbabwe’s sound societal configuration.
In attacking the three lawyers, Moyo infests his ‘opinion’ with derogatory terms like “nonsense,” “Rhodie,” “living in cuckoo land,” “pedestrian,” “bush lawyers,” and “MDC politics of treachery.
While well educated and less educated Asians, Americans and Europeans make breakthrough inventions in the mobile phone and computer, aviation and motor car, rocket science, educational science and medical fields, and many other developmental sectors, some of our professors and high-ranking politicians here spend considerable time concocting noxious slurs. This trait has resulted in a situation where the decency and politesse that should characterise debate in a democratic and civilised society, is fast vanishing from ours.
In his Herald article, Moyo shuns the academic and dignified etiquette that is expected of the professor that he is. He resorts to the primitive customs of name-calling, racism and ‘character assassination,’ particularly in respect of Senator Coltart. Moyo paints Coltart’s personal history unfairly and inaccurately, in extremely pejorative terms, as if his own (Moyo) history is saintly. Unfortunately, the disdain for lawyers displayed by Jonathan Moyo & Co in their regular and lengthy communications generally translates into actual ill-treatment for lawyers at courts, police stations, prisons, and other work stations these days.
Last week the writer witnessed the humiliation and frustration of fellow lawyers — Mtetwa, Norman Bvekwa, and Admire Rubaya at Rotten Row Magistrates’ Court as these were made to sit and wait for practically an entire day, by a magistrate who arrogantly and stubbornly refused to postpone their case to a more convenient date.
Certain prosecutors, judicial officers, policemen/ women, and state officials have ceased to accord lawyers the respect they have traditionally enjoyed, or that obtains for lawyers in other civilised jurisdictions.
This disrespect and harassment, the repulsive language being used against lawyers and against the generality of the population especially against ‘opposition politicians,’ and the presentation of non-lawyer partisan politicians as legal experts or as objective commentators in the media in Zimbabwe, today all threaten the good order and purity of our society. What are our children learning from all this hate and mudslinging?
We expect our politicians and the media to do better, for peace, sanity and civilisation begins with politicians, with the media, and with all of us!

Chris Mhike is a lawyer practising in Harare. He writes in his personal capacity.

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