“July 31 protesters to be arrested”
AS THE economy continues to tank amid rampant public sector corruption, opposition parties have upped the ante by mobilising for July 31 anti-government protests.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, pictured, however, has warned that government will introduce new measures, including a law which treats organisers of demonstrations as terrorists. He speaks to Daily News’ Senior Staff Writer, Blessings Mashaya, and below are excerpts of the interview.
Q: The opposition and pro-democracy groups have said they will hold protests on July 31, what’s your take on this constitutionally-guaranteed right?
A: What I can say is that in March, the president announced a state of public emergency because of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Pursuant to that, we then had a 21-day lockdown. After that we have had some relaxations to allow certain businesses to operate while we are observing laid-down guidelines.
What we have observed is that within the medical fraternity itself, there is no convergence of opinion as to the nature and extent of the spread of the pandemic and its effect on all of us. Because of that, the general feeling is that we must be extremely cautious and heed whatever medical advice we are given to help contain the spread of the lethal virus.
Firstly, because of the need to control the disease, the movement of people will be restricted, hence you saw worldwide lockdowns were instituted, that is limitation on the fundamental right to free movement and it’s allowed in our constitution and in all the democracies to say where you are faced by a general public health issue that necessitates that you limit the movement of people.
It’s a justifiable limitation of a right. That is what was done: the movement of people was restricted and certain other freedoms. Now you find certain individuals pursuing their agenda of demonstrating in the middle of the pandemic.
If you try to analyse that thinking, you then realise that the agenda is not to serve the people, but rather to make sure that our people die and hence it is something that cannot be tolerated. Any lawful government worth its salt will not condone such behaviour…
We will ensure that courts are there to deal with the violators of Covid-19 regulations, that they are prosecuted and sent to jail.
Q: People are going to demonstrate against corruption, is this wrong?
A: What is happening is that they called themselves the Movement for Democratic Change and they prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are not democratic to the extent that they want to fight each other at a funeral. If you are very democratic you must follow your own constitution.
There has not been any member of the First Family that has been implicated in any deal. I will put it to you that I have people that come to me requesting selfies, so is it a crime for the president to have a picture taken with the generality of the people.
All presidents everywhere do it and we as ministers do it so, if somebody has a photo taken with me and is arrested the next minute, does it make me a criminal?
Q: Have you done enough as a government to end this corruption?
A: Let’s give credit to what has happened recently. There was an outcry, and justifiably so, that people were being arrested and nothing was happening, but recently we have seen some movement, some convictions, acquittals that is the due process of the law. If somebody is arrested, he is entitled to an acquittal or a conviction.
I think in the last month or so, we have seen very good progress in the manner in which the courts are dealing with corruption cases, even our prosecution is doing a good job. We have had some convictions coming up.
That is the way it should be. What was worrying was this trend of postponement, but now we are seeing people going to court, trial dates being set, convictions and acquittals … I think we are now moving in the right direction with regards to cases that are before the courts.
Q; You gave the Thokozani Khupe-led MDC $7,4 million last week instead of MDC Alliance, why?
A: I think what they must do is to follow the due process of the law. We are subject to the law … and the Constitution of Zimbabwe. As a government, we never went to court, when they were doing their things together writing to us to say this is how we want it done.
We have always abided by that. We then got a judgment that was very clear and it’s not up to me to then challenge the court judgment. If they are aggrieved by whatever actions I have taken, they have to go to the court and appeal against that decision, but as far we are concerned, what we have done is above board.
Q: But some are saying you are just trying to weaken Chamisa?
A: We believe they should sort themselves out without involving us because we are not the ones who complained about the lack of constitutionalism and rule of law in the MDC and violation of their constitution. They took each other to court. How can I side with someone when I am not the author of their problems? The author of their problems is their disregard for the rule of law like what they are now doing at each and every turn. They disregard the rule of law and they cause chaos and anarchy and apportion blame on us.