Rights group rescues couple jailed over Mnangagwa’s false death report

A BEITBRIDGE couple has been released from prison after Zimbabwe
Republic Police (ZRP) members arrested and charged the duo with
publishing or communicating falsehoods by sharing a message on a
WhatsApp group stating that President Emmerson Mnangagwa had died
after being administered a vaccine to treat him of coronavirus.

The couple, Vongai Nomatter Chiminya aged 20 years and Devine Panashe
Maregere also aged 20 years, were on Friday 29 January 2021 ordered to
pay RTGS$15 000 bail each by Beitbridge Magistrate Toendepi Zhou and
ordered not to post any material on social media to do with government
business.

Prosecutors told Magistrate Zhou that the couple on Tuesday 26 January
2021 unlawfully and intentionally forwarded an audio message to each
other and later on, on a WhatsApp group alleging that President
Mnangagwa had died on Monday 25 January 2021 as a result of a COVID-19
vaccination, which was administered to him at his ruling ZANU PF party
headquarters.

The couple was charged with publishing or communicating false
statements prejudicial to the state as defined in section 31(a)(i) of
the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
Chiminya, prosecutors alleged, first received the audio message on her
mobile phone number after it had been shared on a WhatsApp group
titled “Ruwadzano Rwemadzimai” by a person only identified as Molly,
who used a South African registered sim card.

Chiminya reportedly forwarded the message to her husband, who later on
circulated the same message on a WhatsApp group titled “Agents and
Runners, Beitbridge”.

Prosecutors said Chiminya, who is unemployed and Maregere, who is
employed as a “runner” at Express Best Clearing Company, had no lawful
right to act in the manner which they allegedly did.

After arresting the couple, ZRP members confiscated their mobile phone
handsets, which will be used as exhibits during their trial.

The couple returns to court on 5 March 2021.