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State eats humble pie over Mugabe insult cases

by Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights
19 Mar 2014 at 17:52hrs | Views
THE State was on Wednesday 19 March 2014 forced to climb down in a case in which it had sought to use discredited insult laws to nail people accused of undermining the authority of or insulting President Robert Mugabe.

After pursuing Jeritha Nkomo of Nyamandlovu in Matabeleland North province for close to three years on allegations that she insulted or undermined the authority of the President after she queried the partisan distribution of presidential agricultural inputs, the State on Wednesday 19 March 2014 finally conceded that it had no case at all.

Nkomo was being charged for contravening Section 33 (2) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 after being arrested in December 2010 for allegedly describing the agricultural inputs as "Mugabe's filthy things". The State also accused Nkomo of uttering some vulgar words.

Representing the State, Mr Muchini conceded that Nkomo had been erroneously charged and prosecuted for insulting Mugabe.

The concession by the State becomes the third one in which the State has had to eat humble pie and admit that individuals had been wrongly charged and prosecuted for allegedly insulting the President.

Tawanda Zhuwarara, of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), who appeared for Nkomo during the hearing of her constitutional application, informed the Constitutional Court that after reading the record and the submissions filed in the matter, the State had a change of heart and realised that no offence had been committed.

The matter found its way to the Constitutional Court when Lizwe Jamela of ZLHR, who was representing Nkomo then, requested that the matter be placed before the highest court of the land to assess whether the crime of insulting the President was constitutional.

Zimbabwean police have been overzealous in arresting anyone who says anything about Mugabe and these erroneous prosecutions highlight the fact that the offence of insulting the President is not only abused by the police but also misunderstood by prosecutors.

In the other challenge where former Nyanga North constituency legislator and MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora was represented by Advocate Zvikomborero Chadambuka and Jeremiah Bamu of ZLHR, the State was asked to go and assess if the former legislator had actually insulted President Mugabe.

Edmore Nyazamba, representing the State alleged that Mwonzora had insulted the President when he proclaimed at a rally that he had seen Mugabe looking like a goblin. The ConCourt judges quizzed Nyazamba whether such a statement if proved constituted an offence in respect of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The Court wanted an explanation on how somebody expressing himself in figurative expressions, idioms, or relating a dream or a vision could give rise to criminal sanctions. Nyazamba then requested a postponement for him to file supplementary papers to address the questions raised by the ConCourt judges.

The matter was then postponed sine die.

Meanwhile, Harare Magistrate Tendai Mahwe on Wednesday 19 March 2014 set free four Election Resource Centre (ERC) officials who had been facing charges of contravening Section 40 (c) (1) (g) of the Electoral Act which deals with conducting voter education without authority from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission after removing them from remand.

In removing the ERC officials namely Tawanda Chimhini, Farai Saungweme, Moses Chikora and Wadzanai Nyakudya from remand, Mahwe said the State should enable the Constitutional Court challenge filed by the organisation's lawyer Trust Maanda, a member of ZLHR, to be disposed of first before the criminal proceedings can be attended to.

Charges against the ERC officials followed their arrest and subsequent detention on 11 May 2013 in Borrowdale as they participated under the X1G Campaign.

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Source - Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights