President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent remarks labelling lawyers, particularly the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), as “counter revolutionaries” have sparked criticism and raised concerns about the state of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa made these comments during the launch of Lawyers for Economic Development at State House in Harare, questioning the patriotism of the country’s human rights lawyers.
Critics argue that Mnangagwa’s statement confirms the growing threat to the rule of law in Zimbabwe. Human rights defenders have pointed out that Mnangagwa lacks the moral authority to discuss patriotism. They argue that Mnangagwa and his party are fearful of the new generation of patriots and revolutionaries who are working to reshape governance in Zimbabwe. They also emphasize the historical role of lawyers in defending revolutionaries and patriots during the liberation struggle and commend the lawyers who continue to defend those fighting for a better Zimbabwe.
Piers Pigou, the Southern Africa Programme head for the Institute for Security Studies think-tank, criticized the hypocrisy in Mnangagwa’s statement. He pointed out that accusing ZLHR of lacking patriotism while passing an autocratic “Patriot Act” raises questions about the government’s intentions.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, the director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, highlighted the irony in Mnangagwa’s comments by reminding him that ZLHR had previously represented war veterans who were arrested for protesting against former President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace’s abuse of power in support of the vice-president at the time. Ruhanya specifically mentioned Douglas Mahiya, the Zanu PF secretary for war veterans, as a beneficiary of ZLHR’s assistance.
David Coltart, a member of the Citizens Coalition for Change, expressed disappointment in Mnangagwa’s threats against ZLHR and stated that under his leadership, the rule of law in Zimbabwe is under significant threat. Coltart highlighted the irony of Mnangagwa, who was trained as a lawyer by the late Chief Justice Enoch Dumbutshena, making such remarks.
Mnangagwa’s comments have drawn criticism and raised concerns about the state of the rule of law in Zimbabwe, with many questioning the government’s commitment to upholding human rights and democratic principles.