Magistrate scraps ‘bizarre’ custom barring the wearing of red during rainy season; family had been fined livestock by headman after minor seen wearing red cap

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By Paul Katanda

A NYANGA Magistrate, Notebulgar Muchineripi, has outlawed a bizarre custom banning the wearing of red colours during the rainy season.

This followed an appeal by Nyanga villager Peter Makunura, who lost his livestock and US$20 to traditional leader, Fungai Mushonga, the headman of Tamunesa village.

Makunura was fined four goats, two chickens and US$20 after his grandson was seen wearing a red cap while it was raining.

The incident took place in January this year.

Makunura was also charged for undermining the authority of the headman by not presenting himself at a primary court session, where he was supposed to answer to the charges.

An aggrieved Makunura then engaged Kelvin Kabaya and Peggy Tavagadza of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), who filed an application for review of the proceedings presided over by Mushonga at Nyanga Magistrates Courts and seeking to set aside the decision of the primary court.

In the application, Kabaya and Tavagadza argued that Mushonga’s decision to summon a minor child to appear in court without his guardian and to permit the Messenger of Court to attach and take into execution Makunura’s property, when he was never a party to the proceedings and was never summoned to appear in the primary court, was grossly irregular as to amount to an illegality.

The human rights lawyers also contended that the decision by Mushonga to enter a judgment in default, in circumstances involving a minor child, was grossly irregular as to induce a sense of shock and revulsion.

Kabaya and Tavagadza asked the court to set aside Mushonga’s judgment and that he be ordered to pay back the four goats, two chickens and US$20 to Makunura.

In his defence, Mushonga, who opposed the application, argued that it is taboo in his jurisdiction for his subjects to “wear red clothing during the rainy season” and that he could not ascertain the age of Makunura’s grandson for him to realise that he was a minor.

The magistrate set aside Mushonga’s judgement, faulting the headman for gross irregularity when he granted a default judgment against Makunura.

“This was because the Customary Law and Local Courts Act does not allow him to do so,” said ZLHR.

“In addition, Muchineripi ruled that Mushonga’s decision to summon a minor to appear in court without the assistance of an adult such as a parent or guardian was grossly irregular.”