By Professor Matodzi
Harare, March 03, 2016 – POLICE have arrested and charged a school head and two other school administrators for posting some satirical pictures of President Robert Mugabe on Facebook in a fresh crackdown on dissent.
Edson Chuwe, 42, Shamva Primary School head, school typist Edna Garwe, 45, and Leman Pwanyiwa, 33, who is the school’s development committee secretary were arrested February 9 this year for allegedly mocking the Zimbabwe’s feared leader.
They were charged 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”.
Police claimed that they received a tip off February 5 to the effect that the trio had “doctored” degrading photographs of President Mugabe using a school computer.
Upon rummaging through Pwanyiwa’s mobile phone handset, the police claim they accessed a came across a message sent to Chuwe through WhatsApp, a cross-platform instant messaging application which read; “Mr President isn’t it time to bid farewell to the people of Zimbabwe”.
Pwanyiwa, the police charged, also sent a video of a speech delivered by President Mugabe’s wife, Grace during a recent rally held in Rushinga in Mashonaland Central province to Chuwe to which he allegedly responded by stating that; “Havana shungu ne collapse of economy (they are not bothered by the collapse of the economy)”.
Police and prosecutors further claim that between June and November last year, the trio “doctored” some photographs “denigrating the person of the President of Zimbabwe”.
They claimed that the photographs were exchanged among the trio through their mobile phone handsets after having been edited using the school’s computer.
It is alleged that the police were alerted by a former employee of the school who worked in the school’s computer laboratory and discovered the “doctored” photographs in Chuwe and Garwe’s mobile phones.
The unidentified former employee had been sacked by Chuwe for some misdemeanours which involved tampering with official documents.
The police and prosecutors also accused Pwanyiwa of keeping images in his photo gallery portraying a “doctored” picture of President Mugabe being kicked by a white man.
The state claimed that Chuwe posted some “doctored” photographs showing President Mugabe being assaulted by a sjambok wielding member of the police.
Some of the photographs show a “doctored” picture of President Mugabe sitting down naked and wearing some beads with the caption reading “Mambo wedu (our king)”.
The other photograph shows Mugabe posing with American pop star Rihanna in a position which the state felt suggested the two were in love.
The other post juxtaposed several images of Zambia’s successive leaders with those of President Mugabe implying the clingy leader was succeeding himself.
The Mugabe part of the picture, allegedly, had a cheeky caption reading “Zimbabwean Presidents”.
However, the trio was only freed on bail February 11 after the intervention of human rights lawyers.
Bindura magistrate Ruramai Chitumbura ordered Chuwe, Garwe and Pwanyiwa to pay $50 bail each, to continue residing at their given residential addresses and not to interfere with State witnesses.
They will return to court on Tuesday next week when Magistrate Chitumbura will hand down her ruling on an application for refusal of further remand filed by lawyers and which is being opposed by State prosecutors.
The police also confiscated the trio’s mobile phones and the school’s computer which they intend to use as exhibits if the case proceeds to trial stage.
Chuwe, Garwe and Pwanyiwa join a growing list of Zimbabweans who in recent years have been arrested and charged for insulting Mugabe, which, according to the Zimbabwe lawyers for Human Rights, now stand at more than 100.