Technologically Challenged Zim Police Give Up On Face Book Case

In a letter written to State prosecutor, Jeremiah Mutsindikwa by Detective Inspector, B Samakande, the acting Officer In Charge of Bulawayo Central Police Station’s CID Law and Order Section, the police candidly admitted that their information technology experts had failed to access the alleged Face Book posting by Mavhudzi, a resident of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city.

“This report serves to inform you that this station has failed to access the Face Book message, which is subject of the charge in this case. Assistance was sought from experts in the police’s information technology section without any success. It would appear the message was deleted from the network and it had not been served (sic) in the cell phone,” reads part of a letter.

Mavhudzi is being charged for using social network site, Face Book, to encourage an insurgency against President Robert Mugabe.

The following message allegedly posted on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s page by Mavhudzi in February landed the Magwegwe suburb resident in court.

“I’m overwhelmed; don’t know what to say Mr PM. What happened in Egypt is sending shockwaves to all dictators around the world. No weapon but unity of purpose. Worth emulating, hey.”

According to The Legal Monitor, a newsletter of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the message, allegedly posted via Mahvudzi’s cellphone, is the prosecution’s smoking gun in this case. The 39-year-old is being charged with subversion after allegedly suggesting that Tsvangirai should emulate events in Egypt that saw long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak fall to a popular street revolt. Yet, as prosecutors stepped into court last Tuesday, they had no idea how to trace the message.

At least the police were candid about their failure. What has miffed defence lawyer, Lizwe Jamela of ZLHR is the prosecution’s cockiness, even when faced with such a dead end.

Instead of withdrawing charges, prosecutors are pressing on. “I expected that the prosecutor would have simply withdrawn charges before plea but l was very surprised to learn that even in the face of the revelation by the police the prosecutor insisted on proceeding to trial with the matter,” said Jamela.

At Bulawayo Magistrates Court last week, the only exhibit that the State could show in court was the mobile handset allegedly used by the Magwegwe resident to post the message.

This compelled Jamela to file an application before Magistrate Rose Dube to oblige the State to furnish him with the alleged message from the phone that they confiscated from Mavhudzi and are still holding onto in order for the resident to be afforded a fair trial on Monday when trial resumes. Mutsindikwa undertook to abide by the human rights lawyer’s request.