Former Zanu PF legislator, Munyaradzi Kereke is challenging his conviction of the rape of his then 11 year old niece six years ago and his lawyers are rather requesting for a mere eight months’ imprisonment without an option for a fine.
His conviction was hailed as a victory for justice, and celebrated as triumph of law. However the way his case was shandled has signalled the deep rot in our judicial system. It cast light on the weaknesses in our judicial process where we still have powerful men abusing their power and positions of authority in violating women’s rights.
The question to ask is how was this case unprosecuted for six years?
Abuse of position and power in a patriarchal society
As far back as 2010, the case was brought to the National Prosecuting Authority, (NPA), a legislative function that is mandated to operate without fear, favour or prejudice. The NPA’s Prosecutor General, Johannes Tomana refused to prosecute the case for unarticulated reasons and also disregarded the High Court’s order for private prosecution of the case.
This decision was backed by Vice President Mnagangwa who tabled a bill to approve a change to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act that gave Tomana the discretionary powers to withhold private prosecution at his discretion.
For what logical noble reason would the state stand in the way of the prosecution of the rape of a minor?
Why were three male leaders conniving to allow for the obstruction of justice towards the abuse of an innocent girl?
It should be mentioned that the two men who protected Kereke from prosecution also had a history of demonstrating unhealthy attitudes towards women’s plights. In what was supposed to be a lighter note, Mnangagwa responded to the matter of women’s sanitary wear in parliament by ignorantly jesting “I am grateful to the MPs who managed to show me panty pads. However, what they failed to do was to demonstrate how they are used,”
Tomana’s indiscretions were even greater. He is reported to have advocated for child marriage as a means of escaping socio- economic challenges. He justified why criminals should be allowed to have sex with minors and even recommended that the legal age of consent be lowered. Even though there was an audio clip which we all heard, he later tried to clarify statements citing that he had been misunderstood and misquoted.
These are clearly the attitudes of individuals who have decided to or undermine The plight and rights of women and as such, they were complicit in disregarding the rights of the victim.
The challenges of reporting a rape
Surviving a sexual assault is dreadful, and discussing it distressing. It is the type of violation most would rather forget. For six years, the victim and her family had to rehash the experience and recount it numerous times. Even up to now, in Kereke’s appeal, the victim’s account of events is being brought into question and the defence is claiming insufficient evidence.
The victim’s custodian shared the experience he went through while trying to fight for justice in an interview: “I was accused of looking for money, being political and using the children as pawns in my fights,” “going to and fro police stations to push for the docket to be completed without success.” He indicated that he had also been pestered by police officers who wanted to coax him into withdrawing the case.
Justice was ill executed and thoroughly delayed. The rights of the victim were violated not only through the sexual assault but also the miscarriage of justice.
Was it a triumph of justice or politics?
Even in the final execution of justice, there are still many questions. While the execution of justice was a welcome relief to the victim and her family. It also seems that the prosecution of Kereke was driven by other political motivations fraught with factional battles.
Tomana and Kereke had been rumoured to be linked to the faction supporting the Vice President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and it has been widely reported that that faction was being purged out of the ruling party, especially with the recent public utterances by Manicaland Provinical Affairs Minister, Mandi Chimene these assertions could be true. Tomana appeared in court after he allegedly ordered the release of two men suspected of trying to petrol-bomb the First Family’s Alpha Omega Dairy farm in Mazowe. Kereke was already facing expulsion from the party. Looking from a political angle, wouldn’t it be possible that this case was taken seriously so as to orchestrate the fall of both Kereke and Tomana?
If this be true, it still seems women’s rights play secondary to the agenda of politics and male ambitions and it is frustrating that after all of the work that has been done by legislators and activists, that women’s sexual rights are not taking priority. In fact, women’s rights are being used by politicians as a rescue card in a game of poker.
We need better leadership
If there is anything to be learned from this, it is that we need leaders who value the rights of all individuals. We need leaders who will not put politics and factional battles ahead of the well being of their citizens. We need a form of transparent leadership. Tomana should not have been allowed to use his “discretion” in deciding what to and what not to prosecute. In fact a clause that allows the Public Prosecutor to decide which cases to prosecute should be declared unconstitutional because that opened up an avenue for abuse of power where the Prosecutor General and the judicial system should not be malleable and should be free of bias.
This case has succeeded in bringing attention on the areas that still need attention if as a community we are going to succeed in protecting human rights.