The President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa is facing a huge scandal that could potentially topple his government. Serious allegations have been made that he had a sexual relationship with a minor. Susan Mutami alleged that she was 15 years old when she started having sex with the current president and it went on for several years. On Twitter spaces, she had a record number of 13 500 listeners who were captivated for 4.5 hours. She gave a chronological explanation of her encounter with the president beginning in the early 2000s.
In the early 2000, her father passed away and the current President of Zimbabwe offered to help her with her school needs. This gesture was meant to alleviate the burden caused by the passing of her father.
Eventually she moved into the president’s family home where she helped the house maid with house chores. She didn’t need to worry about her school fees anymore. She said the sex continued and she knew of other women the president had relationships with.
At times, she would breakdown while narrating her story. She mentioned many names in government or connected to the government who she said took advantage of her.
Years later, the then President Robert Mugabe, heard of the story and he was horrified. He instructed senior investigators in government plus his wife to meet with Susan. Mugabe feared for Susan’s life in case word got out that investigations were being done. As such, he made provisions for the meeting to be done in China. Susan gave her version of events to investigators who drafted statements from her testimony. She said the first lady, Grace Mugabe, could not believe that she went through such a dreadful experience and the story made her cry.
Politicians from the governing party in Zimbabwe are never held accountable. They practically operate above the law. The few that end up in court are often under punishment from their superiors. There was one exceptional case in which the current President took away the Vice President post from Kembo Mohadi. The Vice President’s phone call was leaked to the media in which he could be heard asking a young woman for sex. This case is rare because proper accountability measures were enforced. President Mnangagwa thought his Vice President had fallen below the expected standard.
Now it’s the president who is facing extremely serious allegations as compared to his Vice President who lost his job over a phone call. Many Zimbabweans on social media were saying the President must resign as the allegations could not be ignored or swept under the carpet. We live in the days of the #metoo movement which shook Hollywood when women reported how powerful men were sexually abusing them. The #metoo movement has spread around the world and is making men think about how they behave. The downfall of powerful men in Hollywood sent a message to the world that sexual abuse must not be tolerated.
The magnitude of the allegations are so serious that President Mnangagwa cannot possibly carry on as President without clearing his name. What the President must do is address these allegations directly and immediately. Susan shared her story on Friday afternoon, but the president has not responded. This is not a matter that he can view as beneath him or as not worthy to be taken seriously. He must give it the seriousness it deserves by stepping down and commit to a process where justice can prevail.
The office of the President is already in disrepute. There are criminal law hurdles that the President must overcome and only the criminal court is fit for such a case. No right-thinking person would say it’s normal for a President to discharge his constitutional obligations while on trial in a criminal court.
This matter is about the standards people expect from their leaders and the duty they have to the country. This is not an ordinary duty, but a higher duty by virtue of the responsibilities given by the constitution.
It’s impossible for any President to go round the world representing his country under such circumstances. It’s a story with an international factor that the President could potentially get arrested abroad, face demonstrations or humiliating protests. That’s why he should take some time out by resigning and come back once cleared by a court of law.
It’s not normal in Zimbabwe for a President to be held accountable. The politicians in the President’s party have a duty to tell the president that he cannot carry on without clearing his name. It can’t be business as usual. If these politicians or parliament protect the President from accountability, it will reflect badly on them and on the country. Who would want to come and do business in a country where leaders are above the law and not accountable for their actions?
In a democracy, the governed give their consent to be governed so that those who govern them can exercise that power responsibly. Hence there are checks and balances to ensure that abuse of office does not happen. Zimbabwe cannot afford to look the other side when serious allegations have been made against the president. The law must take its full course and justice must be seen to be done. There is a case to answer. Zimbabwe must ensure that Susan is heard and that no harm will come her way.
The Parliament of Zimbabwe must create a code of conduct that is designed to address the issues raised by Susan. A code of conduct where reporting abuse is easy and where action can be taken swiftly. This requires a new way of thinking. A new kind of politics. Modern and transformative leadership