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Govt employee dragged to court over 'Mugabe a burden" remarks

by Stephen Jakes
06 Apr 2016 at 06:37hrs | Views
ZIMBABWEAN authorities have summoned a government employee to stand trial at the end of this month for allegedly claiming that President Robert Mugabe is increasingly becoming a burden to his family due to the nonagenarian leader's advanced age.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights communications officer Kumbirai Mafunda said Ernest Matsapa (46) has been summoned to stand trial at Nyanga Magistrates Courts in Manicaland province on Friday 29 April 2016 on charges of criminal nuisance in contravention of Section 46 (2) (v) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.

He said the Prosecutors claim that Matsapa, who resides in Matsapa village in Chief Hata, in Nyanga, Manicaland province and is employed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development as a livestock specialist, unlawfully and intentionally circulated an audio and visual message on a Whatsapp group called Nyanga Free Range, of which he is a member.

"The audio and visual clip, the prosecutors charged, has the impression of portraying President Mugabe, who in February celebrated his 92nd birthday, as incapacitated and has become a burden to the majority including his family due to some diminishing responsibility," Mafunda said.

"The circulation of the audio and video clip, the State charged, had the effect of denigrating the ruling Zanu PF party leader in his personal capacity as such material is likely to interfere with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public."

Matsapa is the second Zimbabwean to be targeted this year by authorities who appear to be intensifying a government backed crackdown on social media platforms and applications.

Mafunda said in February, police officers in Bindura in Mashonaland Central province arrested Edson Chuwe, a school head at Shamva Primary School, Edna Garwe who is employed as a typist at the same school and Leman Pwanyiwa, who serves as the secretary of Shamva Primary School Development Committee and charged them for undermining authority of or insulting President Mugabe in contravention of Section 33 (2) (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 or alternatively criminal nuisance as defined in Section 46 (2) (v) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.

"The three school authorities were accused of mocking President Mugabe on social media after they purportedly posted satirical pictures of the ZANU PF party leader on Facebook," he said.

"Police claimed that the trio had "doctored" some degrading photographs of President Mugabe using the school computer and had shared a message through WhatsApp, which read; "Mr President isn't it time to bid farewell to the people of Zimbabwe".

He said ZLHR has in recent years noted a dramatic increase in the prosecution of citizens whom authorities charge with ""insulting or undermining the authority of the President'.

"The human rights organisation's records compiled since 2010 show that the organisation has attended to close to 150 cases where clients have fallen foul of this law and the bulk of the victims are residents and villagers residing in the politically volatile Mashonaland Central province," he said.

Mafunda said in court, ZLHR has challenged the constitutionality of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) on several occasions, on the basis that it infringes on freedom of expression, particularly of a public figure, and one who must be subjected to scrutiny as a political candidate.

"In courts, the NPA has in recent years and months been withdrawing charges against several suspects after declining to prosecute some of the insult cases and conceding before Constitutional Court judges that the allegations do not disclose the commission of an offence. This would be after ZLHR lawyers have petitioned the country's apex court seeking orders challenging the constitutionality of the some provisions of the insult laws," he said..

Source - Byo24News