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Zimbabwe High Court Overturns Chief's Decision Against Tsvangirai

Zimbabwe's High Court Wednesday nullified a controversial ruling by a village court penalizing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for violating traditional marriage laws that make it a crime to marry in November.

Chief Negomo, Licius Chitsinde, of Mashonaland Central province, fined Mr. Tsvangirai two beasts, a sheep and a piece of white cloth last December for paying a bride price for Leocardica Karimastenga Tembo in November, a sacred month according to the Shona culture.

The chief's ruling was confirmed by a Bindura magistrate before provincial magistrate, Felix Mawadze, quashed it citing irregularities in the manner the matter had been dealt with. It was then referred to the registrar of the high court for review.

Justice Samuel Kudya, in a judgment read by Justice Bharat Patel, ruled that the proceedings, judgment and the order of Chief Negomo’s community court, were all null and void. Mr Tsvangirai’s lawyer, Selby Hwacha, welcomed the ruling.

“It’s meaning is that there is no judgment at all against the respondent, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai,” he said.

Justice Kudya ordered provincial magistrate, Felix Mawadze, to notify Chief Negomo of the ruling.

Chief Negomo was threatening to attach Mr. Tsvangirai’s property if he did not pay the fine. The judgment against the Prime Minister was passed in default after he refused to attend the court session, questioning the chief’s authority and jurisdiction on various grounds.

Tsvangirai has since divorced Karimatsenga-Tembo, engaging Elizabeth Macheka, daughter of a senior ZANU-PF official, last week.

Legal analyst Kucaca Phulu tells VOA reporter Chris Gande the judgment shows what he describes as a “semblance” of the rule of law within the judiciary system.

“The Zimbabwean judiciary system is still a working system. It has not totally collapsed,” he said.