The Prosecutor’s Wig and the Trial of the Fictional Rebellion

No novelist could ever make this up. We have a trial. Inside, a number of the available seats are filled with supposed relatives of the accused that the very accused have never seen before. There are a large number of law students present who when asked about the law do not say anything and do not want to be photographed. There are also a large number of security personnel — some trying very hard to stay awake. One of the prosecutors, who refuses to provide her name, turns up wearing dark glasses and a wig which covers half of her face. The defense protests that they are not able to see her properly. She insists that she has the right to wear the wig in the style she likes.

Outside, the police harass several members of the public protesting in favour of the accused. Diplomats are also harassed to move away from the entrance to the courthouse.

Nearby, a ruling MPLA-sponsored group of 15 people hold banners calling for “Justice without Pressure” in support of the legitimacy of the trial of the 17 activists charged with rebellion and attempting to assassinate the president by reading and discussing literature on nonviolent resistance. The pro-regime protesters do not want to be photographed or even approached. They threaten the journalists who dare, manhandling them in an effort to force them to delete photographs. As an Angolan writer following the trial concluded: A feature of totalitarian systems is that they eventually lose their notion of the ridiculous. What a country!

Lately, the authorities have been promoting protests in favor of the judiciary through groups named “Justice without Pressure.” This is a clear indication of the inability of the courts to dispense justice according to the law. At this moment of intense media scrutiny, it seems odd that the judiciary have allowed themselves to be manipulated so crudely by political power. In the process, this sovereign body has been transformed into nothing more than an extension of the MPLA.

The courts have often convicted young people after they had been tortured by the police solely for exercising their right to protest. The Attorney General’s office seems to approve these torturers by keeping silent, and by only accepting complaints made by the MPLA and its leaders.

Last September, after he had run out of arguments to prevent protests by the mothers of the political prisoners, the Luanda Governor, Graciano Domingos, justified his banning order with the following terms, “We would like to make it known that the case is still going through the appropriate  legal procedures; therefore, we need to wait patiently for the final decision on the basis of the law, and for the defence of the accused on the basis of their constitutional rights.”

According to Graciano Domingos, “we do not think that it is democratic that the legal institutions should be coerced in any way that does not fit in with the law.”

Are we to assume, therefore, that a public protest is only democratic if it is in favor of the MPLA and the judicial power under its control? As the writer José Eduardo Agualusa has pointed out, there are no totalitarian democracies. A regime is either democratic or totalitarian. Initiatives such as the one we are seeing, are a clear contradiction of the principles MPLA leaders claim to espouse in public. Democracy in this context serves to cover the failures of the MPLA leaders and to justify their cynicism.

The MPLA regime’s lack of coherence can only be disguised by violence and the arrogance of its power — which tries to retain its totalitarian character at all costs. In any case, for the majority of the people who have had little formal education, and have been terrorized or excluded in the last 40 years that the MPLA has been in charge, there is still the belief that decency will, at last, prevail. It believes that , for change, there will be no need for violence or malice as desired by the MPLA.