Judge Bhunu wrong

EDITOR - In his ruling, Justice Bhunu dismissed Finance Minister Tendai Biti's bid to interdict police from obtaining details of his mobile phone transactions, ruling that while the applicant has the right to privacy under section 18 of the constitution, that right is not absolute.

Tendai Biti
Tendai Biti

The police also have the legal right to detect, investigate and arrest suspects. Thus where the police have reasonable cause to investigate crime the subject's right to privacy must of necessity give way for the common good and public interest to fight crime. The law does not prohibit lawful inversion of privacy. What is prohibits is wanton and unlawful inversion of privacy. In this case as the police appear to be acting according to law, the application cannot succeed.

An interesting question to ask is whether it is the Minster's responsibility in any government ministry to authorise study leave and related expenses. I have worked for Government of Zimbabwe myself, and doubt very much if that is the case. It is interesting how the police have not asked for the telephone details of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance or other senior ministry officials involved in authorising study leave and travel allowances.

I doubt very much if Petronella Chishawa reports directly to the Minister of Finance – she certainly has a boss that she reports to, and that person would have played a very big role in facilitating Petronella's alleged several foreign trips on special per diem rates. There would be signed documentation authorising the alleged trips, which are public records that the police should first turn to in their investigation of corruption.

Police should only investigate Minister Biti if all the officials with direct authority over the alleged crimes have said their side of the story and confessed that due process was not followed and prove that it was the minister who overruled their authority.

And even when all the evidence points to Minister Biti, there will still be Petronella Chishawa's phone records to look at. If she indeed made those trip overseas and there is evidence that the trips and study leave were fraudulently authorised, then she is the only culprit at this stage, and if the police intention is to prove that a culprit connived with the minister, then her phone records can be looked at.

What I am not sure about at this stage is whether Econet will play the conversations reportedly made between Minister Biti and Petronella, because that will be the only real evidence that can nail Minister Biti as regards the corrupt authorisation of overseas

trips and study leave. If Econet will only provide logs of calls made, that may not be adequate evidence as Petronella, as a Ministry of Finance employee, is entitled to make calls to Minister Biti 24 hours a day, seven days a week since it is the case that civil servants and ministers can be called up for official business up any time of the day, every single day in the year?

It would appear to me that police harassment of Minister Biti is a collaborative project jointly operated by the shameless and unprofessional members of the police force and those in Zanu (PF) who are bent on derailing democratic change or those who don't want Mugabe exposed for running a parallel government which has usurped some of the responsibilities of the ministries of Finance and Public Service by fraudulently increasing civil servants' salaries and bankrolling from revenue abused from the sale of diamonds.

It is also part of a well orchestrated move by Zanu (PF) to get rid of the MDC-T negotiators who have proved their intellect since negotiations that lead to the Government of National Unit began. First it was Honourable Mangoma, now its Honourable Biti.

The Zanu (PF) and police plan could also be to identify the telephone contact numbers of people who communicate with Minister Biti so that they can target these for victimisation. Shame on the police, shame on the leader of the police force, Augustine Chihuri and all those whose interests he is serving.

To honourable Biti, I say take comfort in knowing that all sane Zimbabweans are with you. Good will eventually prevail over the devil. – BENJAMIN CHITATE, New Zealand

Post published in: Letters to the Editor

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