• Reply to: The Cost of International Criminal Justice

    50 years he got. Taylor, at 64, is unlikely going to be a free man ever again in his life. 4 years, and approximately US $250 million later, the world can scream VICTORY for yet another ‘successful’ prosecution of a sitting head of state for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. As the Head of State, he bore command responsibility for the actions of the state and a duty of care for its citizens. He thus was responsible for the murder and mutilation of civilians. He was thus responsible when his forces cut off people’s limbs.  He was thus responsible when his forces used women and girls as sex slaves. He was thus responsible when his forces abducted children and forced them to fight as soldiers.

    So the Special Court for Sierra Leone said his crimes include acts of terrorism, murder, violence to life, health and physical or mental well being of people, cruel treatment, rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, outrages upon personal dignity, conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities, enslavement and pillage.

    Now he is going to spend 50 years in a British prison.

    Given all that he has done, one would expect that he shall be languishing and rotting in prison, and maybe then the victims could derive some satisfaction from knowing that he is paying for all the wrong he did. But is that the case for Charles Taylor?

    Here is why I ask this question…

    On average a British prison looks like this.

    -Prisoners in the UK have access to television with satellite.  They have access to video game consoles. They receive wages and cash bonuses for good behaviour, while drugs are cheaper in jails than they are on the streets. They have access to free gyms where they can stay fit. They can even get subscriptions to newspapers with a specific newsagent local to each prison.

    -All prisoners have the right to food and water. There is a system to protect them from bullying and racial harassment. They have access to a healthcare system which includes access to nurses and doctors, opticians, dentists, pharmacists and mental health practitioners. Prisoners in need of special treatment as a result of drug or alcohol abuse, HIV or AIDS or disability have access to these special needs.

    -All prisoners have access to basic education that enables them to read and write, do maths, manage money, use computers and technology. They also take courses in practical skills such as painting and decorating, bricklaying, hairdressing and gardening. They can even study IT.

    -They have a right to see lawyers, to call the lawyer when they need him/her, to write him/her letters and their correspondence is very private. Prisoners have access to religious leaders and their freedom to religion is respected to the extent of respecting dates and times for prayer, religious services and festivals and providing vegetarian, Halaal and Kosher food for those with religions requiring special dietary needs.

    And in the UK the fact that these rights are guaranteed by law means that they are granted to prisoners. And so shall they be guaranteed to Charles Taylor. As a ‘special prisoner’, his standards are likely going to be even higher than those for ordinary inmates.

     Oh yes, of course I do not dispute that Charles Taylor has human rights despite being a prisoner, and so the British prison will have to take really good care of him in order to respect his human rights. And of course that detention shall result in his isolation from family and lack of personal freedom, but is it punishment enough?

    Has it really served justice for the suffering citizens of Sierra Leone? Youth unemployment and poverty is widespread, particularly in urban centres in Sierra Leone. The unrest caused by Charles Taylor left behind a nation with a poorly performing economy, infrastructure was destroyed, and the nation languishes in poverty. In 2008, Sierra Leone ranked 84 out of 88 countries in the Global Hunger Index and last out of 179 countries in the Human Development Index. Many people do not have decent housing. They do not have easy and free access to reliable sources of information let alone televisions with satellite.

    The trial alone cost 250 million and keeping Charles Taylor in prison shall cost even more guaranteeing him the same rights that his actions are denying thousands of Sierra Leoneans. I wonder- is there real justice in the international criminal justice system? But also, can we guarantee human rights if we don’t grant them to some of the very worst villains in the world?

    Dedicated to delivering clarity, direction and guidance leading to successful results in your legal challenge, our focus is on YOU.Lawyer canning vale

  • Reply to: Tsvangirai and Locadia: Foes or Victims?

    For the past week, local news has been buzzing with the ‘bizarre’ things that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been doing in his personal life. It is alleged that in November 2011, Tsvangirai paid 000 lobola/roora/bride price for one Locadia Karimatsenga and dumped her barely a week after. Tsvangirai denies marrying the woman and claims he only paid damages as he believed he had made her pregnant.

    In Zimbabwean culture, when a man impregnates a woman he has three choices. First, he can marry the woman by paying the lobola, entering  into what is known as an unregistered customary law union which he can then ‘upgrade’ into a registered customary marriage [Chapter 5:07], or a registered civil marriage [Chapter 5:11],  popularly known as the Chapter 37 marriage. Secondly, a man can refuse to marry the woman, but acknowledge the wrong done and pay a token of shame and apology known as dhemeji (damages). However, in paying these damages,the elements that are observed in paying lobola are not observed. Hence, damages are not the equivalent of paying lobola. The third option is one that many men have chosen to the detriment of many women’s lives, that of refuting responsibility and running at the speed of a bullet away from the woman and the baby.

    It is not clear which option Prime Minister Tsvangirai chose in his relationship with Locadia and now the High Court has been tasked to decide. The hullabaloo in the press has been precipitated by Tsvangirai’s marriage to his new belle, Elizabeth Macheka whom he married customarily, and now wants to tie the knot with in a civil marriage. Locadia, with whom Tsvangirai is either in an unregistered customary law union, or just paid damages for, has taken him to Court. She argues that he married her, that their unregistered customary law union is valid, and that they have not gone through the requisite customary rites of divorce, ordinarily observed through the payment of money/livestock known as gupuro.

    Morgan Tsvangirai and Locadia Karimatsenga

    Although the majority of comments have focused on either castigating Tsvangirai for being a double headed snake – tsukukuviri - in marrying one woman, divorcing her, and immediately marrying another, or on ridiculing  Locadia for being desperate and refusing to accept that Tsvangirai does not want her for a wife, the importance of this saga lies in its exposure of the chaos that is Zimbabwe’s marriage regime.

    A few months ago, prospective brides and grooms had their plans to begin enjoying marital bliss thwarted when the Registrar-General (R-G) suspended all marriages in order to implement a new marriage system. The R-G’s actions were inspired by his realisation that there were many men committing bigamy, the crime of being illegally married to two people.

    The R-G’s efforts clearly did not change much. Zimbabwe still has 3 recognised marriages: the unregistered customary law union (where a man pays lobola to a woman’s family and from then on the two are considered married), the registered customary marriage (where a man and a woman do the lobola but are then married in court and the man is still legally permitted to have more than one wife), and the civil marriage (the one man-one woman type). As the Tsvangirai case proves, the fact that these different marriages are allowed remains a problem. That problem is worsened by the fact that these marriages do not have equal weight before the law; they do not give the partners equal rights within and outside the marriage. For instance, under the unregistered customary law union, a man can divorce his wife willy nilly by simply paying gupuro, and chasing her out of his house, while under the civil marriage, if he wants to divorce her, then he has to convince the court that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. In the two customary marriages, the man can have more than one wife leading to multiple partners, a dangerous factor in today’s HIV/AIDS ridden Zimbabwe.

    This is the reality of Zimbabwe’s marriage laws and the impact they have. Locadia is laying a claim believing she is in a valid marriage with Tsvangirai. Tsvangirai married Elizabeth believing his arrangement with Locadia does not constitute a valid marriage. If we had one marriage regime these uncertainties would not exist. In the end should the two be enemies or are they both just victims of a chaotic system? The marriage system is a mess and needs cleaning up sooner rather than later.

    Dedicated to delivering clarity, direction and guidance leading to successful results in your legal challenge, our focus is on YOU.Lawyer canning vale

  • Reply to: I Killed Men Today

    by Lindani Chirambadare

    I was there with thousand others in Copacabanna as we stood aside and did nothing, craning our necks to see the soldiers beat up the faceless nameless unwashed hwindis whose problems and running battles with the soldiers and police we did not need to remember because for one they deserved it, two it was none of our business, three I have enough problems of my own…and any number of reasons to fill in the blank spaces. We knew in our hearts that it was wrong and that it should not happen, least of all with the frequency and magnitude with which it has been happening. I watched as the soldiers dragged the poor unarmed young and old hwindis out of the kombis, whip them up, kick them and pound their heads with sadistic glee. I was there when they were stripped of their dignity and reduced to begging battered pulps. I was there. And I did nothing but kill each one of the soldiers in my mind.

    What gives a soldier the right to beat up a civilian, or two, or three, or ten or twenty? They bellowed that the hwindis refused to carry them to work, for free, in the morning. They reiterated their entitlement to such benefit because they defend this country and are by consequence entitled to treatment as “staff” munyika yababa Chatunga (in Mugabe’s country). What or who has brainwashed these man and women of the uniform into a warped sense of importance? Does it have anything to do with restlessness or unsatisfactory pay days which frustrates them into beating up ordinary civillians who have - in this particular case, been systematically excluded from recourse? Such tyranny. There surely can be no amount of justification for the protector turning into the tormentor.

    What makes a citizen give up his power? The power accruing to her or him through the social contract?

    Our minds have been colonised by fear.

    Our will by complacency.

    We stood aside today because we were afraid, it did not concern us, we were not angry enough and besides, who were we to do anything when the Police themselves were turning a blind eye? What happens tomorrow then when the soldiers beat up my brother, your father, my mother our mother and our grandmother, because they can and we have allowed them to? What happens when your child, niece or nephew is initiated into that culture of hooliganism because it is the one that obtains in the community and country in which they live in? Will the same reasons for complacency obtain? Will the discourse take up new and different meaning when the protagonists are closer to our bossoms?

    We must never forget that Hwindis are honest (most times anyway) men and women, you and I trying to make a living and to fend for their families by trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents split many ways among the Police, Council, Zimra , Zinara, fuel, ZBC, rentals, fees, livelihood……. and that when we stand aside we are waiting in line.

    Our kids and grandchildren and generations after them will one day ask us why we stood aside and let our country degenerate to levels of no return like this and we will have no answer but to face the truth, the fact of our cowardice.

    The bells may today toll for our neighbour but tomorrow, they will toll for us.

    The bells may today toll for our neighbour but tomorrow, they will toll for you. Just a reminder.

  • Reply to: Truth or Lies?

    27th November 2017

    There is a question that should be on everyone’s lips today. If all it takes is an impeachment process to finally get rid of Robert Mugabe, why did we need a “non-coup” coup? This “non-coup” coup has taken the country into the most perilous position, inches away from becoming sanctioned by SADC, the AU and the rest of the world. As we go forward into whatever new (and most likely old) political arrangement, the army and ZANU-PF must explain to the nation the justification for violating the constitution when there was a ready-made constitutional mechanism already at hand.
    This is not trivial. While everyone tip-toes around using the word coup, it is obvious that all governments, regional, continental and international, are completely aware that it is a coup, but no-one, for obvious reasons, want to say this officially. If they do, then a rapid chain of events must happen. Diplomatic relations must be cut, and a whole range of actions, perhaps even including military action, have to come into play. So everyone plays it down, watches, and waits in hope that an internal solution emerges that does not look like the end point of a coup. But every move so far seems to demonstrate this.
    And so the big question remains, as does a subsidiary question.
    If Emmerson Mnangagwa was so popular in the party, as seems evident today – 10 Provinces and the Central Committee wanted him – why the indirect route of a coup, and not the completely constitutional route of voting Robert Mugabe out at the Congress in December. It seems to be a pattern repeating itself: it suggests that ZANU-PF cannot reform, cannot place constitutionalism above means-end opportunism, and is never willing to test popularity through open contests.
    It also looks suspiciously like Emmerson Mnangagwa could not have won an internal popularity test within ZANU-PF, and needed the “non-coup” coup to achieve this. There is something very uncomfortable about winning an internal election via the power of the state military. This is not a great model for democracy no matter how deep the political crisis in the country.
    This bodes ill for the future. Mugabe has gone and this is clearly cause for celebration, but we must all wonder whether “Mugabism” has gone, and whether the “new” ZANU-PF will show itself capable of reform into a truly modern political party.
    The coming weeks will reveal how much change is likely to come, and, with the near-certain creation of a ZANU-PF headed government of national unity, how much reform will take place. We have been here before. A ZANU-PF dominated GNU in 2009 provided no meaningful reforms, and controlled the constitutional process to the gates of the election in 2013: this prevented any possible challenge to its hegemony through the constitution during the life of the GNU.
    Now that the citizens have found their voice, and their feet, it will be their task more than ever to ensure that any new political configuration adheres rigidly to both the constitution and constitutionalism, undertakes the reforms necessary to undo state capture and securocracy, and takes a truly developmental approach to improving the lives of the citizens.
    And so, it is important always to begin a new relationship based on the truth, no matter how uncomfortable the truth is. Building a relationship on lies, no matter how expedient or necessary they may be, inevitably leads to tears, divorce, and, in politics, to yet another “non-coup” coup. We watch with critical interest.