Bikita West Member of Parliament, Munyaradzi Kereke
By Nyasha Chingono
A PIGEON flew from one end of the courtroom to the other, momentarily taking away the attention of people who were seated in the courtroom to hear the proceedings.
The pigeon disappeared into a hole in the decaying ceiling where another pigeon was occasionally popping out its head as if to catch a glimpse of the proceedings.
Moments later, the pigeon re-emerged from the hole in the ceiling and flew back to its initial perch on the other side of courtroom.
While it was a normal day in the life of the pigeon that has probably witnessed countless court cases, it was not a normal day for the Bikita West Member of Parliament, Munyaradzi Kereke, whose life took a turn for worse after being sentenced to 14 years in prison that very same day.
His sentence read thus: “After considering submissions from both the prosecution and the defence, I found the 20 year-jail term proposed by the prosecution too harsh, such a maximum sentence must be reserved for the worse rape cases. I also noted the sentence of between five and 10 years and found it too lenient. I therefore sentence you to 14 years in prison…”
Four years were, however, suspended.
Then came the customary order for the court audiences to rise.
The accompanying noise of the ancient courtroom benches sent the pigeon briefly flying off its perch.
From this moment, no-one was bothered by the pigeon. All eyes shifted to Kereke whose high life had taken a dramatic turn for the worst.
Zimbabwe’s prisons are notorious for their harsh conditions.
For the next 10 years, Kereke will have to put up with these conditions unless he successfully appeals against both conviction and sentence.
Be that as it may, the conviction of Kereke for raping his 11-year-old niece after seven years of a protracted legal battle has left Zimbabweans questioning the country’s legal system which appears agonisingly slow to deliver justice when its due.
Kereke’s case was especially long and winding due to the complexities of the issues.
The investigations into the case were long and winding. The Prosecutor General (PG)’s office didn’t want to proceed with the case citing insufficient evidence. To make matters worse, factional fights in the ruling ZANU-PF party also threw spanners into the works.
It took the heroics of Harare lawyer, Charles Warara, to take the bull by its horns.
Tuesday’s conviction was victory for good over evil and for all those behind the cause of the girl child.
Kereke now joins yet another controversial ruling party cadre, Robert Martin Gumbura, who is serving a 40-year prison sentence for rape.
The 44-year old Kereke was once a darling in ZANU-PF until the rape allegations first surfaced.
In between the surfacing of the rape allegations and his conviction, Kereke had endless squabbles, which took a toll on his finances.
Robert Martin Gumbura hold a bottle of mineral water on the day he was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Many will remember Kereke as a strong headed advisor of former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor, Gideon Gono.
Short in stature, but long in action, Kereke wielded enormous influence while he was still at the RBZ – probably more than Gono’s deputies at the time, Nicholas Ncube, Charity Dhliwayo and Sengi Mlambo.
Gono had “poached’ Kereke from Stanbic Bank, where he had charmed his then boss, Pindi Nyandoro, with his analytical skills in economics.
While at the RBZ, Kereke grew stronger in terms of his political influence.
But it was also during his time at the RBZ that he forced himself on his 11-year-old niece.
In 2013, he left the apex bank under a cloud, taking a detour into the corporate world where he had established a thriving empire that included a funeral business (Doves); a medical aid society (Green Card) and a state-of-the-art hospital, Rock Foundation Medical Centre (RMC).
He also involved himself in farming through his Pamene Farm.
In fact, in 2011 he surprised all and sundry when he was adjudged the best commercial farmer in the tobacco sector after he delivered 701 bales of the golden leaf in the 2010-2011 season.
His empire, except the farm, is now bellies up.
Green Card’s licence was revoked in 2013 after it failed to comply with regulations governing medical aid funders, leaving nearly 3 000 members stranded.
RMC is also in a crisis, having lost some of its properties to creditors who obtained writs of execution from the courts to recover debts.
It also suffered from tax claims by the taxman which triggered court battles between Kereke and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.
The Bikita West legislator is also rumored to have divested from Doves after an investment vehicle linked to former Croco Holdings chief executive officer, Farai Matsika, took over the business.
Upon leaving the central bank, Kereke turned his guns on his former boss, Gono, whom he accused of abusing his position while he was still at the RBZ.
Gono has maintained his innocence.
It was not just Gono who became the target of Kereke’s venom. He went on a war path with commissioners at the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission; Happyton Bonyongwe, the director general of the Central Intelligence Organisation and former vice president, Joice Mujuru, among others.
Even in politics, he has been a controversial figure.
In the run-up to the 2013 polls, a decision was made for Kereke to stand aside and allow Elias Musakwa to represent ZANU-PF as its candidate for the Bikita West constituency.
Having invested heavily in the constituency, Kereke couldn’t have any of it. He defied the party’s directive, beating Elias Musakwa in primaries and posting another victory in the national poll that followed.
For going against the party, he was suspended from ZANU-PF, but not for long. He later bounced back through a deal whose details remain sketchy.
As the sages say, each dog has its day.
On Tuesday, the world came crushing down on Kereke.
Since 2010, he had viciously fought the rape allegations.
The police had been set out to investigate him, but could not secure his prosecution after the PG, Johannes Tomana, determined that there was no evidence against Kereke.
Both Tomana and the police, whose investigations left a lot to be desired, have been roundly condemned for their handling of the case.
It took the courage and determination of Warara to ensure that justice is served.
In his pursuit for justice, Warara had to seek the intervention of the High Court to proceed with the matter through private prosecution. The certificate was granted, but Warara was to encounter more hurdles after Tomana refused to comply with the court order.
For his intransigence, Tomana earned himself a 30-day conviction, which was wholly suspended on condition that he complies with the order. He eventually complied.
On January 11, 2016, Kereke appeared in court for the first time since the allegations first surfaced in 2010.
Five months down the line, the trial reached its conclusion, with the presiding magistrate, Noel Mupeiwa, delivering his judgment to a petrified Kereke.
It’s a process that has poked a big hole in his pocket.
In January this year, Kereke told the presiding magistrate that he could no longer afford his legal fees after the taxman garnished his bank accounts.
Now that he has been convicted, ZANU-PF now looks set to recall him from Parliament, paving the way for a by-election in Bikita West.
While those who are close to Kereke are inconsolable over what has happened, gender activists are in celebratory mood for yet another “giant killing act”.
Gender activist, Mebline Mhlanga told the Financial Gazette that although Kereke’s conviction was a victory for the girl child, the delay in the case exposed a corrupt legal system that thrives on political expediency.
“I think it’s really traumatising to the girl child to wait for this long, but it is a consolation that finally justice has been served,” Mhlanga said, adding that the judicial system had loopholes that need to be dealt with if perpetrators of such crimes are to be brought to book.
“This shows failure of the justice system, it seems they wanted to cover up because Kereke was a powerful person,” she added.
Despite Kereke’s defence counsel’s frantic efforts to sway the decision in their client’s favour, magistrate Mupeiwa said there was overwhelming evidence against him, convicting him of rape, but acquitting him on the indecent assault charge.
On Monday, Francis Maramwidze, grandfather to the raped minor, said he was elated that justice had taken its course.
“I am happy that justice has taken its course. It is disheartening to know that such a responsible person could do such a thing. I could not believe it that he had raped her, but I was obedient to the law and pursued the case till the end,” a teary Maramwidze said.
Warara commended Mupeiwa for dealing with the matter with the professionalism it deserved.
“We have spent over six years to complete this case and I think the judgment was thorough, the magistrate did a lot of research,” Warara told the Financial Gazette.
Jacob Mafume, a lawyer and spokesperson for the people’s Democratic Party.
Still, there are others who believe that Kereke’s downfall has something to do with successionist politics which is at play within the ruling party and government.
His conviction coincided with the suspension and prosecution of Tomana, who has been accused of delaying the case after refusing to prosecute Kereke for lack of incriminating evidence.
Both Kereke and Tomana are believed to belong to a faction backing Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed President Robert Mugabe.
“Well, I am happy for the girls and I say justice has been served for them, but at a macro level it’s all succession politics at play,” said Jacob Mafume, a lawyer and spokesperson for the people’s Democratic Party.
“The issue at face value looks complex because Kereke has tried all these years to use his political influence to evade the law and at the height of his influence the police, let alone the courts, could not touch him. The political influence he lost is now being used by the person who gained it to increase his legal troubles.”
Political commentator, Dumisani Nkomo, echoed Mafume’s sentiments sayings that ZANU-PF protected Kereke for seven years because of his alignment to President Mugabe’s policies, but left him in the cold when he got entangled with factional politics.
“This is a case of factional politics. Even though he was guilty, ZANU-PF protected and used him, but now he is paying dearly for crossing the line,” said Nkomo.
Although the case has taken seven long years to conclude, the long arm of the law finally caught up with Kereke who raped the minor at gunpoint in 2010.
But gender activists argue that those in the echelons of power had subverted the rule of law and these must equally be brought before the court to account for their actions.
Like Kereke has found out, the wheels of just might take long to turn, but eventually justice will be served. email@example.com
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