PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is unlikely to face justice while in office over sensational rape allegations by Australia-based Susan Mutami, legal experts have said.
Now-based in Australia, Mutami (33) told an audience of more than 12,000 listeners on Twitter Spaces that she was raped by Mnangagwa when she was a 15-year-old high school student in Kwekwe.
Subsequent to the nearly four-hour Twitter session, Mutami has since filed rape charges in Australia against the 79-year-old Zimbabwean leader.
A spokesperson for the Queensland Police Service appeared to confirm the filing to an online Zimbabwean publication but declined to give more details.
“For confidentiality purposes and privacy reasons, we are unable to provide any information other than to advise Queensland Police will liaise with, and refer, any inquiries to international jurisdictions,” said the spokesperson in an emailed response to the publication.
However, a Harare lawyer who preferred to not be named because of the sensitivity of the matter said Mnangagwa is protected from prosecution by the Constitution in Zimbabwe, while abroad he would have diplomatic immunity.
“Australian police do not have jurisdiction over an alleged crime committed in Zimbabwe by a Zimbabwean to a Zimbabwean,” said the attorney.
“Besides, the president is also protected under diplomatic immunity and processes in international tribunals that Zimbabwe is part of are the ones capable of clothing another country with jurisdiction but that on its own is very complex.”
Mnangagwa is unlikely to travel to Australia where he is banned as part of sanctions imposed by the West nearly two decades back over electoral fraud, political violence and human rights abuses.
Again, according to Article 29 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR);
“The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving state shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.”
While the inviolability of diplomatic immunity can be waived, this would need to be at the request of the suspect’s home country which, in the case of Mnangagwa, would be unlikely while he is in power.
Effectively, the legal expect who talked to new Zimbabwe.com explained, the consequence of the filing of charges against Mnangagwa at this stage is mostly political embarrassment and public shame.
“There is only bad publicity that will happen because even if charges were laid here in Zimbabwe the challenge with the charge is that a sitting president cannot be arrested and prosecuted,” he said.
“So, if you cannot arrest and prosecute a sitting president what then happens is that it can only trigger perhaps diplomatic chaos but arresting becomes practically impossible both here and in Australia.”
Neither Mnangagwa nor any his officials have publicly commented on Mutami’s allegations with the ZANU PF leader continuing with his public allegations, apparently unfazed by the storm. – NewZimbabwe