My rights and your rights

There have been some failures in sending e-mails, so I should make my own apology to readers for the articles you didn’t see in the past few weeks. The editor did his best, but some e-mails I sent him did not arrive.

I am still visiting vazukuru in Unit K and Ireland, so I may miss a few more deadlines. For this week I have a reflection prompted by a financial scandal in Ireland. Zimbabwe isn’t the only country that has them. It isn’t the only country where they involve top people. But in many countries every citizen is equal before the law, so if a friend of cabinet ministers, owner of the country’s biggest newspaper and many other businesses is accused of fraud (as in the Irish case), he must stand trial just as certainly and accept that a judgment for or against him just as if he was accused of stealing money from his nearest corner shop.

We all know there are people in Zimbabwe who consider they are above the law.

In this Irish case, the man accused of fraud tried to claim the court would be infringing his privacy if it demanded to see and audit his bank accounts. There are people in Zimbabwe who could silence questioners by talking like that. In the Irish case, there was widespread outcry from the public and in the Press. That is as it should be. Nobody, however rich or powerful, is above the law.

This led me to suggest something that might sound extreme, but there are some very progressive things in our new constitution, which lead some people who don’t know how widely our constitution is ignored to admire our country as a beacon and a bastion of human rights and democracy. Why not add one more progressive clause which could, if it was followed, make anyone think twice before abusing their power to make a quick buck, or a quick few million?

I start from the assumption that very few people can acquire more than a million dollars without being, to some extent, dishonest. If you think one million is a low figure and you would prefer to set the benchmark at five million, I won’t argue with that. Let’s just say there should be a law, and a clause in the constitution if necessary, that says anyone with more than that sum (let’s say X million dollars) has no right to keep his bank account secret. He or she is suspected of dishonesty because very few people can get that much money honestly. They must prove their innocence before we believe in it.

There is something very wrong with a country where more than half the population are forced to live on less than a dollar or two per day while a few hundred people own dozens of farms, multiple companies, fleets of buses and fat bank accounts. My rights end where they conflict with yours. We all have a right to privacy, but if I am one of those very rich people and you are one of the poor, my right to privacy ends where it might conflict with your right to feed your children, including meat a few times a week, clothe them decently, pay their school fees and for medical care from birth through all the ills and accidents of childhood.

If you can’t give your family a decent minimum standard of living, you have every right to question my right to own more than one car, more than one house, more land than I can work myself or a yacht on Lake Kariba. If I can justify having some of these things, I should be able to prove it to you and your ragged children, because in the words of ZANU’s published 1972 programme: “we believe the land and natural resources of Zimbabwe are a gift of Almighty God in trust to the present and future generations of our people” – all our people, now and in the future.

Post published in: News

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