Harare, September 23, 2013 – A Zimbabwean man has become the latest victim of the country’s repressive laws after he was convicted for allegedly slandering President Robert Mugabe after blaming his unemployment distresses on the octogenarian’s mismanagement of the country’s economy.
On Friday, Chiredzi Magistrate Honest Musiiwa convicted Regis Kandawasvika, aged 36 years, after finding him guilty of undermining or insulting the authority of President Mugabe in contravention of Section 33 (2) (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
Magistrate Musiiwa fined Kandawasvika $150 for committing the offence failure of which he would spend 60 days in jail. Kandawasvika, who denied committing the offence during the trial which commenced in August and who was represented by Blessing Nyamaropa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) opted to pay the fine.
Prosecutors alleged that Kandawasvika, who was particularly angered at his failure to obtain employment despite passing his Ordinary Level examinations, the 36 year-old Chiredzi man vented his anger on Mugabe’s portrait. Kandawasvika, aged 35 years at the time of his arrest in October last year, was charged with contravening Section of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act).
The State alleged he held Mugabe accountable for his failure to secure employment despite having obtained six Ordinary Level passes.
State prosecutors said Kandawasvika insulted Mugabe when he struck the ZANU PF leader’s portrait hung in Khomanani Bar in Tshovani high density suburb on 2 October 2012. According to the State, Kandawasvika struck the portrait alleging that Mugabe was the author of Zimbabwe’s unemployment problems.
The State alleges Kandawasvika uttered the following words: “Ndiri kutambura nokuda kwehutongi hwezimudhara iri Robert Mugabe. Ndine masabhujekiti six pa‘O’ Level kasi handina basa rekuita. Handidi kana kumboriona zimudhara irori. Ikozvino, gwendo runo riri kuenda kamwe chete.”
The State translated this to mean: “I am suffering because of the ruling of this old man Cde Robert Mugabe. I have six ‘O’ level subjects but I have no job. I don’t want to see this old man. This time he is going one way.”
The State said the alleged utterances were unlawful, abusive, indecent and obscene.
According to the State, after uttering the “unlawful, abusive, indecent and obscene” words, Kandawasvika had an altercation in the bar with Robert Madhambara, a security guard, ignited by political party differences.
Kandawasvika allegedly then picked bottle tops from the floor and threw them at President Mugabe’s portrait three times after failing to hit the portrait with a pool table cue stick, the State alleges. The prosecutors say Kandawasvika was only stopped from further pounding the President’s portrait by Augustine Mafukidze, a security guard who informed the police, leading to Kandawasvika’s arrest.
The conviction of Kandawasvika is the latest in a string of draconian prosecutions brought against Zimbabwean citizens considered critical of Mugabe.
ZLHR, an influential legal response group says it has since 2010 attended to more than 70 cases where clients have fallen foul of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which State authorities routinely invoke against political and human rights activists including ordinary Zimbabweans for allegedly making seemingly innocuous jokes about the country’s longest serving ruler. However, most of the victims have not been convicted while those found guilty have successfully appealed against both sentence and conviction.