. . . dozens in the dock for insulting President
ZIMBABWE is once again witnessing multiple arrests of citizens under a controversial law critics say is designed to impart President Emmerson Mnangagwa with imperial powers.
The number of people arrested under Mnangagwa’s so-called insult law has exceeded 60. The latest citizens accused of undermining the President are Cuthbert Mutero (49) from Mt Darwin in Mashonaland West province together with Admire Mupemhi.
They join a long list of those charged for allegedly contravening section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which deals with undermining the authority of the President or insulting the President.
The discredited law was a major source of criticism for former president Robert Mugabe, buttressing his reputation as a dictator as over 200 were arrested between 2010 and 2014.
While many felt Mnangagwa’s ascendancy would lead to the repealing of such laws, the reality is that the new regime, which prides itself as a “new dispensation”, has perpetuated the instruments of oppression.
Mutero and Mupemhi, the latest to fall afoul of the draconian law, are accused of using unprintable words to insult Mnangagwa. This was after Zanu PF activists allegedly orchestrated a siege on Mutero’s complex in July.
Mutero, his lawyers say, reported the matter to the police who later summoned him and charged him with insulting the President. He went to the police in the company of Mupemhi, who was also arrested. Mutero now has two cases, one as a complainant and the other as an accused.
Nyasha Machirori, of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, is representing the two. Victims of the law include journalists, students and opposition activists, who have been accused of undermining Mnangagwa’s authority.
Journalist Mduduzi Mathuthu was in June charged with contravening section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which deals with undermining the authority of the President or insulting the President after allegedly taking to microblogging site relating to Mnangagwa’s address when he suspended lending by banks to both private companies and government departments.
Statistics show that the number of people arrested and charged with undermining the authority of the President continue to rise in Zimbabwe under Mnangagwa.
In March this year, a 48-year-old woman, Maria Mapfumo from Shurugwi, Midlands province, was arrested after calling Mnangagwa a murderer during an altercation with Bernard Dangi, a Zanu PF councillor.
Again in March, Mehlo Mpala, a 42-year-old train engineer from Hwange was accused of acting unlawfully after he criticised Nyambe Mathe, a war veteran and the Zanu PF ward chairperson, saying the President was causing a lot of suffering among Zimbabweans.
Prosecutors alleged that Mpala told Mathe that he was wearing a good pair of shoes and trousers except for the cap and T-shirt which he said was “rubbish” stuff and that President Mnangagwa’s picture on his party regalia was not good.
Others accused of undermining the authority of the President include Tinotenda Majuru (24) from Bindura, Clapaton Redi, a 42-year-old man from Mbare, Leonard Mutsa Mukuya from Seke, among many others.
Several experts, including constitutional law don, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, have described the law as outdated.