The ruling Zanu PF party has sparked widespread condemnation after rewarding convicted rɑpist Bobby Makaza with a house and a substantial amount of cash during a presidential rally held in Mutawatawa. Makaza, who had been sentenced to 16 years in prison for the rɑpe of a 10-year-old girl, served less than five years following a clemency order signed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa earlier this year.
The amnesty, aimed at reducing prison congestion and offering a second chance to offenders, released over 4,200 prisoners, including individuals convicted of rɑpe and murder who were aged 60 or older.
After his release, Makaza gained notoriety within the ruling party for creating Zanu PF’s 2023 election campaign slogan: “ED Huchi,” which has been extensively used at party rallies.
During the recent rally, Zanu PF political commissar Mike Bimha announced that Tinoda Machakaire, the party’s youth secretary, was building a house for Makaza. In addition, Machakaire provided Makaza with US$500, while other party members contributed US$200 in cash.
“Cde Machakaire is building him a house and has also given him cash. Other party members have also chipped in with some cash incentives,” Bimha announced.
Although Makaza was invited to meet President Mnangagwa at the high table, he was unable to reach the podium in time due to his distance from the stage. Dressed in Zanu PF regalia, Makaza enjoyed a celebrity-like status as party supporters clamored to take pictures with him.
Civil society organizations, women’s rights activists, and opposition political parties have strongly criticized Makaza’s release, viewing it as a disregard for survivors of ƨǝxuɑl assault and a violation of principles of justice and accountability.
Romeo Chasara, a political analyst from Witwatersrand University, remarked that Zanu PF’s actions set a dangerous precedent. “By rewarding a convicted rɑpist with a house and cash, the ruling party sends a dangerous message that crimes of this nature can be overlooked and perpetrators can be celebrated,” he said. Chasara emphasized that such actions undermined the tireless efforts of survivors and activists advocating for justice and accountability.
Former Cabinet minister Walter Mzembi also expressed his dismay, considering the move a new low. “Rebranding a paroled rɑpist convict of minor children as a celebrity for coining a campaign slogan ‘ED Huchi’ is a low for many,” he stated.
Critics argue that Zanu PF’s actions not only trivialize the gravity of the crime committed but also perpetuate a culture of impunity. In response to the controversy, Tinashe Chinopfukutwa and Paidamoyo Saurombe from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have written to the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) Commissioner-General, demanding clarification on the basis for Makaza’s amnesty qualification. The victim’s family had instructed the lawyers to pursue the matter.
If it is determined that Makaza’s release was unlawful, the ZPCS may be compelled to re-incarcerate him and others who were freed. Victims of violent crimes have expressed their discontent, stating that they were not consulted before the perpetrators were granted amnesty.
The controversy surrounding Makaza’s reward highlights deep concerns about the prioritization of justice and the message being sent by the ruling party. The outcry from various quarters is a reminder of the urgent need for a comprehensive review of policies related to crime and punishment in Zimbabwe.