Richmore Mashinga Jazi, a self-employed carpenter based in the eastern border town of Mutare, was arrested and charged with mocking, undermining and insulting Mugabe in February after he allegedly enquired from a colleague, Pension Gwinyai, how the octogenarian leader had managed to blow up birthday balloons because of falling ill-health and old age.
“VaMugabe vagona sei kufuridza zvibharuma, asi pane munhu avabatsira here uye samba racho variwanepi,” which the police translated to mean “Did Mugabe manage to blow all those balloons or did someone assist him to do so and where did he get the power.” The police and prosecutors say by uttering such words Mashinga Jazi, who watched the live broadcasting of Mugabe’s birthday celebrations held at a football stadium in Mutare, undermined and insulted the ZANU PF leader in contravention of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.
But Jazi, who was out of custody on bail, is now a free man after he was recently removed from remand by a Mutare Magistrate. His removal from remand followed an application for refusal of further remand filed by his lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who objected to the continued persecution of their client when the state failed to produce an authority to prosecute from the Attorney General’s office as is required by law.
Jazi is just but one of several Zimbabweans who have been charged with undermining Mugabe. Last year, Mutare police charged Constitution Select Committee (COPAC) co-chairperson and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) legislator, Douglas Mwonzora, with undermining the authority of or insulting Robert Mugabe for allegedly enquiring on the health status of the former freedom fighter.
Mwonzora allegedly mocked Mugabe by posing questions on a portrait of the 87 year old leader, which was positioned in Nyanga Magistrates Court, when he appeared in court on public violence charges. “Makadii baba? Iri sei mwiri? Riri sei ziso?” The police translated this to mean “How are you father? How is your health? How is your eye?”
Mugabe’s health status has been under the spotlight in recent years after his lieutenants publicly admitted that he had a cataract operation on his eye in Singapore early last year and has been a frequent visitor of the Asian country on several occasions and has also made frequent visits to a private health institution in Harare.