Mutare, January 18, 2014 – Zimbabwean authorities have arrested a teenager over an alleged post on the social media site Facebook alleging that President Robert Mugabe had died.
Police on Thursday arrested Gumisai Manduwa, an 18 year-old teenager from Odzi, in Manicaland province and charged him with contravening Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly insulting President Mugabe after he allegedly posted a message on Facebook claiming that the octogenarian leader had died and is being preserved in a freezer.
Manduwa endured two nights in detention, first at Odzi Police Station before being transferred to Mutare Central Police station where he was locked up on Friday evening pending his appearance in court on Saturday.
The teenager was freed on bail on Saturday morning after lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) intervened to secure his release.
He was granted $30 bail by Mutare Magistrate Sekesai Chiwundura.
Manduwa becomes the latest victim to be arrested for allegedly undermining authority of or insulting President Mugabe and his case is the second one that ZLHR has reacted to in recent years. In 2011, Bulawayo Magistrate Rose Dube dropped the case of Bulawayo resident, Vikas Mavhudzi, who was arrested and accused of subversion because of an alleged post on Facebook after no evidence of the message could be found.
State prosecutors and members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police failed to retrieve the message he allegedly posted on former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s page in February 2011 that suggested that the MDC-T leader should emulate pro-democracy protests staged in Egypt. Mavhudzi spent more than a month in jail before being granted bail in March 2011.
In Zimbabwe, insult laws have been routinely used to arrest and detain dozens of people for allegedly insulting and undermining the authority of the Zanu PF leader.
More than 80 similar cases are pending before the Constitutional Court and other subsidiary courts of the land.
Since 2010, there has been a dramatic increase in the arbitrary application of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23).