Home » Legal and Judicial Affairs » Muchechetere’s Five-Star Treatment Raises Eyebrows

Suspended Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) chief executive officer, Happyson Muchechetere, must count himself lucky judging by the way his court appearance was handled. Muchechetere was recently quizzed by the police in connection with a corruption case in which the State is said to have been prejudiced of US$800 000 through inflating the cost of broadcasting equipment purchased by the public broadcaster from China last year.

Muchechetere did not spend a night in police custody. When his day in court finally came, prosecutors consented that he be granted bail. The suspended ZBC CEO’s case has once again brought to the fore claims of selective application of the law in Zimbabwe.

Thabani Mpofu, who worked in the Prime Minister’s Office and was charged last year along with three others — Felix Matsinde, Mehluli Tshuma and Warship Dumba — drew parallels between their treatment and that of Muchechetere. Mpofu and the other three accused persons were arrested on accusations of possessing dockets linked to investigations of some eminent personalities who included businesswoman Jane Mutasa, former deputy minister, Bright Matonga and Minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo. After spending two weeks incarcerated before being finally granted bail at the High Court over the issue, Mpofu this week said Muchechetere was a “lucky guy”, for the lenience he was shown.

“He (Muchechetere) is invited to the police station one Thursday afternoon where a warned and cautioned statement is recorded from him. He is not subjected to the same treatment that my colleagues and I suffered. He is not taken into custody. Rather, he is allowed to go back home after being charged by the police. Two days later, he is taken to court for his initial remand hearing. Unlike in our case, the prosecutor is of the view that Muchechetere should not be remanded in custody notwithstanding the seriousness of the case against him,” said Mpofu.

“The prosecutor consents to bail. Muchechetere is granted US$3 000 bail, which he promptly pays with the result that he walks out of the court premises a free man. During his encounter with the law enforcement agents, Muchechetere does not spend a single night in custody. Some people have all the luck.” There are other cases that have also left perceived ZANU-PF critics wondering if there is a law for them and a separate one for their rivals.

Even at the ministerial level, in 2006 Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa appeared in court facing obstruction of justice charges, but never tasted police cells. During the inclusive government days, then energy minister, Elton Mangoma, was treated like a common criminal and had leg irons over some corruption allegations. Both ministers were acquitted on the charges they were facing.

Former deputy minister of justice and legal affairs, Obert Gutu, said he has been practising law in Zimbabwe for the past 27 years and in that period of time has witnessed the gradual perversion of the justice system. Ordinarily, Muchechetere should have been arrested and detained in police cells before being taken to court just like any other ordinary accused person.

“I have been practising law in Zimbabwe for the past 27 years and in that period of time, I have, much to my chagrin and disgust, witnessed the gradual and systematic bastardisation of the criminal law justice system whereby cases are treated differently depending on who the accused person is and also whom heshe knows among the political movers and shakers,” said Gutu.

“I have really no qualms about him (Muchechetere) being admitted to bail because it is an established principle of criminal law that the court should always lean in favour of the liberty of the subject in any bail application. That said, we should realise that in Zimbabwe, the adage that everyone is equal before the law is more often said than practised. Indeed, some animals are more equal than others!”

Political analyst, Ricky Mukonza, said the treatment of Muchechetere shows that government is not serious about fighting corruption. The approach shown in this matter implies that government was only hood-winking the public into believing that something was being done about corruption yet in actual fact it is doing nothing, he added.

“The biggest problem is that corruption in Zimbabwe, whether it’s in the public or private sector takes the form of a cobweb, those engaged in corruption are connected all the way to the top and it is difficult to deal with them without implicating those at the top. In the case of Muchechetere, he is alleged to be connected to Minister (named supplied),” said Mukonza.

“With the way corruption has become endemic in Zimbabwe, a tougher approach, by a different and relatively less tainted government, would yield desired results. It is my belief that in dealing with corruption, to amputate is to heal.”

Source : Financial Gazette