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‘ZIMBABWEANS ARE FOOLISHLY LITIGIOUS’: EXPLORING THE LOGIC OF APPEALS TO A POLITICIZED LEGAL SYSTEM

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 January 2016

Abstract

In this article, I focus on the narratives of two men, Patrick and Father Marko Mkandla. I ask whether their continued interactions with, and appeals to, Zimbabwe's politicized legal system were ‘foolish’. The two men inhabited different geographic regions and diverged in their economic positions, political engagement, and ties to Zimbabwe's human rights networks. They nonetheless both started their accounts by recollecting that they persisted in reporting cases of political violence to the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Their accounts show us that imagining, invoking and interacting with the law in Zimbabwe was often an ambiguous, occasionally dangerous, and very contradictory exercise. Under ZANU-PF's rule, judicial institutions were increasingly politicized as instruments for repression. The men nevertheless continued to interact with the state and its officials as if these were bound by rules. This allowed Patrick and Father Mkandla to perform their rights-based citizenship, to experience occasional ‘successes’, and to differentiate themselves from the ‘unprofessional’ politicized civil servants they encountered during their appeals. Rather than ‘foolishly’ invoking the law, some Zimbabwean citizens engaged it as a shared language through which they could articulate their imagination of, hopes for, and belonging to a rule-bound state in the future.

Résumé

Cet article s'intéresse aux récits de deux hommes, Patrick et le prêtre Marko Mkandla. Il se demande si leurs interactions persistantes avec le système juridique politisé du Zimbabwe, et leurs appels auprès de celui-ci, étaient menées « bêtement ». Les deux hommes vivaient dans des régions géographiques différentes et présentaient des divergences en termes de situation économique, d'engagement public et de liens avec les réseaux des droits de l'homme au Zimbabwe. Tous deux ont néanmoins commencé leurs récits en remémorant leur persistance à déclarer des cas de violence politique à la police de la République du Zimbabwe. Ces récits nous montrent que l'acte d'imaginer, d'invoquer et d'interagir avec la loi au Zimbabwe était souvent un exercice ambigu, occasionnellement dangereux, et très contradictoire. Sous le régime de la ZANU-PF, les institutions judiciaires étaient de plus en plus politisées en tant qu'instruments de répression. Les deux hommes ont néanmoins continué à interagir avec l’État et ses agents comme si ceux-ci étaient tenus au respect de règles. Ceci a permis à Patrick et au prêtre Mkandla d'exercer leur citoyenneté sur la base de droits, de connaître des « succès » occasionnels et de se démarquer des fonctionnaires politisés « peu professionnels » qu'ils ont rencontrés à l'occasion de leurs appels. Plutôt que d'invoquer « bêtement » la loi, certains citoyens zimbabwéens s'en sont servis comme langage commun par lequel ils ont pu exprimer leur imagination, leurs espoirs et leur appartenance à ce qui serait à l'avenir un État tenu à des règles.

Type
Law and Social Order in Africa
Copyright
Copyright © International African Institute 2016 

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