Zim Authorities Summon Villager Over Anti-Mugabe Slur

By Professor Matodzi

MUREHWA, November 26, 2015 – Zimbabwean authorities have summoned a
Goromonzi villager to stand trial on charges of insulting President
Robert Mugabe, in yet another fresh onslaught against citizens.
35 year-old Moenda Mberi of Juru in Goromonzi District in Mashonaland
East province, will appear at Murehwa Magistrates Court on Thursday
after Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers recently arrested and
charged him for allegedly blaming Mugabe as the author of the
country’s economic crisis, which had brought untold suffering among
some of his ruling Zanu PF party supporters.
Mberi was arrested early this month and charged with undermining
authority or insulting Mugabe in contravention of Section 33 (2) (b)
of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. He endured a night
in police custody before he was released following the intervention of
his lawyer Kennedy Masiye of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
On Thursday, Mberi is expected to stand trial on charges of insulting
the country’s long time ruler and faces a sentence of one year
imprisonment if he gets convicted.
According to police officers, Mberi insulted Mugabe after he allegedly
accused the 91 year-old Zanu PF party leader of having run out of
ideas to arrest the country’s agonising economic crisis.
Police officers charged that Mberi uttered some vulgar words at a beer
retail shop located at Juru Growth Point in Goromonzi North
constituency in Mashonaland East province. The police officers claimed
that the 35 year-old villager blamed Mugabe for the poor fortunes of
some ruling Zanu PF party supporters, who were experiencing weight
loss despite promises from their aged leader who in the run-up to the
2013 general elections had pledged to create two million jobs and help
fix the economic crisis.
Zimbabwe has witnessed a dramatic increase in the arbitrary
application of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and
Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) in recent years, where individuals have
been charged for allegedly “insulting or undermining the authority of
the President”.
The country’s leading legal defence group, ZLHR, says it has attended
to more than 100 cases since 2010 where clients have fallen foul of
insult laws and where the bulk of the victims are residents and
villagers residing in the politically volatile Mashonaland Central
province.
The human rights organisation has challenged the constitutionality of
Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter
9:23) on several occasions, on the basis that it infringes on freedom
of expression, particularly of a public figure, and one who must be
subjected to scrutiny as a political candidate.
In courts, the National Prosecuting Authority has in recent years and
months been withdrawing charges against several suspects after
declining prosecution and conceding before Constitutional Court judges
that the allegations leveled against them do not disclose an offence.
This would be after ZLHR attorneys would have petitioned the country’s
apex court seeking orders challenging the constitutionality of the
insult law.
Opposition politicians among them MDC-T Secretary-General Douglas
Mwonzora, Morgan Komichi, Gilbert Kagodora, Renewal Democrats of
Zimbabwe leader Elton Mangoma have faced prosecution for allegedly
violating the insult laws.