POLICE have charged a Nyanga based civil servant for allegedly claiming President Robert Mugabe had now become a burden to his own family and the country due to old age.
Ernest Matsapa (46) will stand trial at a Nyanga magistrates’ court April 29 on “criminal nuisance” charges.
This, according to the state, was in contravention of Section 46 (2) (v) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.
Matsapa, who resides in Matsapa village in Chief Hata, in Nyanga, Manicaland province is employed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development as a livestock specialist.
The State claims he “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, sought to portray the 92 year old leader as incapacitated and a burden to the majority including his own family.
The State claims the circulation of the clip further sought to denigrate the ruling Zanu PF leader in his personal capacity and was “likely to interfere with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public”.
Matsapa is among the many Zimbabweans who have since been targeted this year by authorities who appear to be intensifying a government backed crackdown on social media platforms and applications.
Police in Bindura February this year charged Shamva primary school head Edson Chuwe and two staffers for allegedly undermining the authority of or insulting President Mugabe.
The three school authorities were accused of mocking Mugabe on social media after they purportedly posted satirical pictures of the veteran leader on Facebook.
Police claimed 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”.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has in recent years noted a dramatic increase in the prosecution of citizens authorities charge with “insulting or undermining the authority of the President”.
The rights group’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.
In court, ZLHR has challenged the constitutionality of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) on several occasions.
The group is adamant the law infringed on freedom of expression, particularly of a public figure, and one who must be subjected to scrutiny as a political candidate.
In courts, the National Prosecuting Authority 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 is often experienced after ZLHR lawyers would have petitioned the country’s apex court seeking orders challenging the constitutionality of the some provisions of the insult laws.