Harare, December 04, 2014 – A Zimbabwean informal trader has become the latest casualty of the country’s widely condemned insult laws after he was arrested and charged for allegedly uttering some offensive remarks over the christening of a street and a symbolic square in honour of President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace.
Police on Tuesday 0 arrested and charged Shane Kazado, an ice-cream vendor with criminal nuisance after he was allegedly involved in a verbal altercation with a colleague over the naming of a street and a square “in honour” of the country’s First Family.
Kazado was arrested in Harare’s Mabelreign suburb and accused of undermining authority of or insulting President Robert Mugabe in contravention of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 after the ice cream vendor allegedly passed on some “unpalatable” comments to an unidentified colleague who took offence with some comments regarding the naming of a street and a square in honour of President Mugabe, the ZANU PF leader and his wife, Grace.
Construction workers recently labeled one of the pathways “Dr Grace Mugabe” at a square which they also christened “Robert Mugabe Square” under controversial circumstances on the fringes of the central business district, the venue of the ZANU PF congress, which commenced this week in Harare.
The unidentified complainant who filed a police report at Mabelreign Police Station reportedly took offence with Kazado’s comments leading to the arrest of the vendor who was transferred to Harare Central Police Station.
However, police officers at Harare Central Police Station later altered and preferred a lesser charge against Kazado of criminal nuisance in contravention of Section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
The pressing of a lesser charge against Kazado came after his lawyer Tarisai Mutangi of Donsa–Nkomo & Mutangi Attorneys, who is a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) convinced the police officers that the facts stated by the complainant did not disclose an offence and could not sustain the charge of undermining authority of or insulting the President as had been alleged.
In the end Kazado was fined $10 and released from police custody.
Kazado becomes the latest victim of the insult laws which the police and prosecutors have abused and used to prosecute and persecute several Zimbabweans in recent years.
In recent years, Mugabe has increasingly become a subject to crude jokes of suffering Zimbabweans grappling with an agonising economic crisis characterized by high employment levels, poor salaries and despair.
However, most of the victims of Mugabe insult laws have been set free by the courts after successful legal representation from ZLHR, the country’s leading legal defence group which has challenged the prosecutions as an infringement of citizens’ freedom of expression.