Harare, January 08, 2014 – A former lawmaker has been set free on charges of allegedly insulting or undermining the authority of President Robert Mugabe after State prosecutors withdrew the matter which has raised consternation among opposition and human rights activists.
Lynette Karenyi, a former MDC-T legislator for Chimanimani West constituency in Manicaland province, who was due to stand trial on Tuesday for allegedly accusing Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and some of his lieutenants for being hypocritical in their criticism of the opposition party’s purported support for homosexuality practices and yet they had endorsed gay rights in some of the country’s laws.
But Magistrate Sekesai Chiwundura set her free after her lawyers David Tandiri and Blessing Nyamaropa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) protested that State prosecutor Fletcher Karombe had failed to secure authority to prosecute from Prosecutor-General, Johannes Tomana, the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) as is required by law.
Magistrate Chiwundura advised the State to proceed by way of summons once it puts its house in order.
Mugabe is infamous for stating that gays were “worse than pigs or dogs”.
In Zimbabwe, insulting Mugabe, who is known for his anti-homosexual views, is a criminal offence punishable by a jail sentence or a fine.
Karenyi, who spent a week in custody after her arrest in December 2011 was charged with 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).
The State charged that she accused Mugabe of double standards by criticising her MDC-T party for allegedly supporting homosexuality practices and yet the octogenarian leader’s Zanu PF party together with Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Minister, Jonathan Moyo had endorsed gay rights in some of the country’s laws.
The State claimed that Karenyi insulted Mugabe at a rally held in Nhedziwa, in Manicaland Province on 9 December 2011 when she uttered the words; “Robert Mugabe President veZanu PF aiita zvehomosexuality naJonathan Moyo uyezve Canaan Banana aiita izvi,” which prosecutors translated to mean “Robert Mugabe, the Zanu PF President was practising homosexuality with Jonathan Moyo.”
The prosecutors charged that the former MDC-T legislator’s alleged statement was abusive, indecent, obscene and meant to cause hatred, contempt or ridicule to Mugabe who is known for his anti-homosexual views.
Last year, the Constitutional Court rebuked State prosecutors for abusing the country’s controversial insult laws by bringing frivolous cases against critics of Mugabe.
Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba admonished the NPA against prosecuting matters in which statements were uttered in drinking halls and other social places, as the pursuit of such frivolous matters only served to bring disrespect on the Office of the President.
The reprimand came after an aggressive campaign launched by ZLHR challenging the abuse of the insult laws and the arbitrary application of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) on the basis that it infringes on freedom of expression, particularly of a public figure, and one who must be subject to scrutiny as a political candidate.