Buyanga’s custody case beams light on Zimbabwe’s rule of law

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By Staff Reporter

ZIMBABWE’s adherence to the rule of law has once again come under scrutiny following reports that President Emmerson Mnangagwa could meddle in judicial processes after a private citizen sought his help in resolving a vicious child custody battle involving a politically linked business mogul.

Information Ministry permanent secretary, Nick Mangwana was forced to come out swinging denying Mnangagwa would use his political muscle to influence a judicial process in the case that involves a businessman with connections to the political elite.

At the weekend, regional media picked up on a story of South African based businessman, Frank Buyanga, who was reported to be in trouble after his ex-girlfriend Chantelle Muteswa had written to the President requesting his intervention in the couple’s child custody battle.

The reports insinuated that the country is failing to build on its newly found acceptance on re-engagement especially on the rule of law situation in the country.

In an interview with the South African daily, Mangwana defended President Mnangagwa, refuting allegations that Zimbabwe was backsliding into default mode where the rule of law is not respected.

“The President does not interfere in any legal cases be they civil, criminal or domestic. If there is alleged impropriety by any institutions, then there are structures in place to deal with those,” said Mangwana.

He added: “Only in the unlikely event of a whole system failing can the President intervene and only to ensure that our institutions that promote accountability do their work.”

Zimbabwe’s economic growth depends on many factors. Critics argue that key among these factors is strict adherence to the rule of law and protection of property and contractual rights by government so that markets can work effectively and efficiently.

It has also been argued that Mnangagwa’s administration must allow for the law to be consistent, public, fair, enforced, and equally applicable to all members of society.

Efforts to get clarity from Mangwana were fruitless with political watchers arguing that reports Mnangagwa’s wife was also involved do not inspire much confidence.

Buyanga has also been accused of using his connections to influence the custody battle with his former girlfriend Muteswa.

Muteswa last week reportedly wrote to Mnangagwa seeking assistance in the legal battle with Buyanga over custody of their minor child.

Her lawyer Munyaradzi Bwanya confirmed the incident saying his client wrote to the President in order to stop the rot in the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) without providing evidence.

Bwanya alleged that Buyanga is well connected to “someone” in the Judicial Services Commission who is making it difficult for his client to win the custody battle.

“Chantelle is a mother in pain, who is desperate to get her child back. She sought help from the President to stop the corruption at the Judicial Services Commission (JSC). She is doing what any mother in her position would have done. No mother wants to be separated from her four-year-old son in that manner,” said Bwanya.

Prior to that, audio in which a man who only identified himself as Harmony, was leaked and could be heard extorting for money from Buyanga in exchange for crucial information on how the system was going to be unleashed on the businessman.

In the audio, Harmony alleges Muteswa is in a relationship with Mnangagwa’s son, Collins and has been manipulating the relationship to influence the court process.

Further, he alleges that the First Lady Auxillia was cross with Buyanga and wanted him incarcerated.

Buyanga, who has been living in South Africa for almost 20 years, was granted custody of the child as an interim relief after a bruising court battle.

However, Muteswa has access to her son under supervision.

Muteswa lost her bid to have sole custody of the child in July when a Civil Court magistrate awarded custody of the minor to his father.

According to court documents, the judge accepted Buyanga’s arguments that Muteswa was unfit to raise the son.

The court accepted Buyanga’s argument that Muteswa had no decent accommodation to house the minor after her father whom she lived with, lost his property after being evicted from a Glen Lorne home over debt.

One of Buyanga’s firms, Hamilton, extended funds to Muteswa’s father to buy the Glen Lorne house which has now been seized but the father allegedly ignored his obligations.

After Chantelle changed addresses following her father’s eviction from the house, Buyanga approached the Children’s Court on July 19 to obtain permission to keep the child for longer while the suitability of Muteswa’s new home was assessed.

Muteswa approached the High Court in a bid to invalidate that order of the lower court with little joy.