25 November 2017

Zimbabwe Court Coup Ruling Raises Concern Over Mnangagwa

Photo: The Herald
High Court of Zimbabwe.

A high court in Harare has ruled that the military takeover of the government was constitutional and not a coup. Another court ruled that the sacking of current President Mnangagwa by ex-leader Mugabe was illegal.

A High Court judge in Zimbabwe ruled on Saturday that the military takeover leading to ex-President Robert Mugabe's resignation was legal, and therefore not a coup d'etat. At the same time, another court ruled that Mugabe's sacking of his former deputy, current President Emmerson Mnangagwa was illegal - prompting fears over judicial independence under the country's new administration.

"Two incredible judgements," Dewa Mavhinga, director of Human Rights Watch for southern Africa, wrote on Twitter. "Strange, captured judiciary?"

Mavhinga's comments echo the concerns of many observers and people in Zimbabwe who worry that the new president, a longtime Mugabe ally nicknamed "the crocodile," may carry on in the same brutal manner as his predecessor.

"If these breathtaking High Court Orders granted in Harare yesterday represent what is being peddled as a 'new path,' then please pray for Zimbabwe," said Minister of Higher Education Jonathan Moyo, a Mugabe supporter.

Mugabe crumbles

On November 14, Zimbabwe's army shocked the world by leading a bloodless takeover of the government, occupying state-run broadcasters and parliamentary buildings, swearing to root out the "criminal" element in Mugabe's inner circle.

The move led to the unexpected end of Robert Mugabe's 37-year-rule when the 93-year-old president stepped down on Tuesday, followed shortly by Mnangagwa's inauguration in the capital Harare.

"Actions by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to stop the usurping of power by those close to former president Robert Mugabe are constitutional," public broadcaster ZBC quoted the court as saying. The ruling is key for the military, as it prevents their actions from being labeled a coup.

In a likely reference to former First Lady Grace Mugabe, whose ambition to replace her husband after his death let to Mnangagwa's ouster earlier in November, the judge said that the military had acted "to ensure the non-elected individual do not exercise powers that can only be exercised by (those) elected".

Finance Minister Ignatious Chombo, a Mugabe apointee, was also in court on Saturday, facing charges over corrupt land deals allegedly made during his time as head of local government, public works and urban development from 2000-2015.

es/rc (AP, AFP)

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