Home » Governance » Of Madhuku, the Don Quixote [column]

I REMEMBER well the very first time that I saw Professor Lovemore Madhuku. He came to the University to give us a lecture on an aspect of jurisprudence, having been invited to do so by our regular lecturer. I did not think much of the man when he walked in, but 45 minutes later, after a rendition that was full of citations and quotations yet wholly off the cuff with no reference to notes, I was in awe.

He was, to my first year law student mind, probably the most intelligent person I had even seen in real life. This was, of course, the same time when Dr Kempton Makamure, that trailblazing former Dean of the Faculty of Law, liked to tell everyone ready to listen that Prof Madhuku not only went to Cambridge University, but that he got “a super-first class degree” from that institution, because first class just did not fully show how good he was.

Sad then that his political decisions have been, for the most part, decidedly devoid of evidence of this super first class mind and just plain less awesome.

There was that odd decision in 1999 to not only boycott but campaign against the draft constitution drawn up by a wide cross-section of society on the basis that this was somehow less representative than the one that his (very private) NGO was working on.

Then there was the more recent decision to transform a one-agenda NGO aimed at campaigning for a new constitution into a political party just at the time when the country had adopted a new Constitution through a referendum.

Consistently and without fail, Prof Madhuku finds himself picking the wrong pursuits and saying the wrong things. Like those times when he called for mass demonstrations that seemed to be notorious for the handful numbers that attended.

Then there was the time that we were warned by Prof Madhuku that Dr Grace Mugabe risks war by getting involved in politics – and yet now, fresh from a triumphant Congress where she was unanimously voted into the Zanu-PF Politburo, we are still to see this war. The good doctor, it turns out, is something of a false prophet.

Then there was that inane statement that Dr Grace Mugabe would not survive President Mugabe if she dared to be in politics. Aside from being a veiled threat at the life of the First Lady tantamount to criminal intent, one never got to know from Prof Madhuku why the idea of the First Lady (a Zimbabwean citizen of sound mind and good judgment) cannot be involved in politics if she wanted. Prof Madhuku, it seems, likes to shoot from the hip and does not bother about who gets caught up in his line of fire. And if all that fails, he litigates.

Then there is this penchant, some might say zealotry, towards litigating everything and anything.

Prof Madhuku, it turns out, will go to court at the drop of a hat. His idea of a democracy is one where lawyers are always criss-crossing their paths to and from the Constitutional Court, like gods descending from Mount Olympus, to announce to the populace what rights and entitlements they have won for them.

A democracy where politics is something to be found in the paragraphs of constitutions and statutes, with lawyers the prophets that interpret the law for the masses. One where you can bring everything to a standstill because a comma in that provision meant that things much be done this and not that, where the letter of the law ruled supreme despite what everyone thinks.

But, however, underwhelming these decisions have been, the one that takes the biscuit has to be his current application before the Constitutional Court. I speak, of course, about his application based on the strange argument that because the President did not appoint two Vice Presidents “without delay” after winning a resounding mandate in July 2013, he is somehow prevented by the Constitution from doing so now.

Having progressed with one Vice President, according to Prof Madhuku, the President must keep to that number until 2018. Doing otherwise would not comply with the meaning of “without delay” as provided for in the Constitution, and would be calamitous to the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

Pause for a moment to consider the irony: Prof Madhuku has dispatched an application to a Constitutional Court that was established under a Constitution that he says is not good enough, to argue that under the Constitution that he thinks is not good enough, two Vice Presidents can only be appointed without delay or else not at all.

And what is the merit of his argument? Leaving aside the boring “section this as read with item whatnot of subparagraph that provides that as per Schedule 7 or this or that law” bit and looking at the real issue: what is Prof Madhuku’s problem? He essentially argues that having two Vice Presidents has serious economic implications, because we have to pay them. Duh!

The country went on a referendum and people voted, by an overwhelming majority, for this very same Constitution. It had the support of the major parties in Parliament.

Contrary to Prof Madhuku’s obvious belief, people know they voted for a Constitution that provides for two Vice Presidents and the cost implications.

Further, the suggestion that it is expensive to have two Vice Presidents so they must be appointed without delay is a self-defeating one. If one wanted to give credence to Prof Madhuku’s expense argument, one might find that by not appointing two Vice Presidents for the 17 months that he was entitled to, President Mugabe has therefore saved the economy some of the money that Prof Madhuku is worried about. To go to the Constitutional Court to raise this argument is decidedly more of a waste of money and the court’s time than anything that the good doctor might come up with.

When people are looking to the skies for the rains and worrying about inputs and fertiliser and listening to Zanu-PF talk about these things and doing something to help, a political party wants to engage the country’s highest court in a debate about the meaning of the phrase “without delay”, and argues in the application that this matter is so urgent that it must be heard, . . . eh, without delay!

Come election time, who do we think people will choose between these political parties?

There is some entertainment in watching a man spend his life picking the wrong fights and choosing the wrong side of the issue time after time. There is even some pity to be reserved for a man that directs his obviously undoubted intellect to trivial pursuits in the name of doing good. However, there is a point at which these stunts cease to be amusing and become downright nauseating. I fear that if we did not cross that point a long time ago with Prof Madhuku, we are at that point now.

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is former president: University of Zimbabwe Students Union former president: Zimbabwe National Students Union former secretary-general: University of Zimbabwe Students Union, and PhD student, History of Land Law and Political Science, UK.

Source : The Herald

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