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Insulting the President is an everyday occurrence

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This is a story from the newsletter, Legal Monitor of July 25, 2011, published by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights:

A 52-year-old man is in trouble after allegedly telling a ZANU PF workmate that President Robert Mugabe’s death was imminent.

Zebedia Mpofu, a general hand labourer at a private security firm, allegedly mocked his workmate, informing him that a soft drink and packet of biscuits he was having for lunch came courtesy of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. He is being charged under the harsh Section 33 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 as read with Section 33 (2) (a) of the same Act for allegedly undermining the authority or insulting the President.

According to the State outline, Mpofu was at work in October last year when he went to Gilbert Matarutse’s office. Matarutse, a security officer known to be a ZANU PF supporter, was having his lunch at the time.

“The accused shouted to Gilbert through the window, saying that the biscuits and the cascade he was having were brought by MDC-T through its leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai,” reads the State outline. “He went further to say that President Mugabe had ruined the country and that he was going to be dead by December 2010 then Morgan Tsvangirai would take over as President of Zimbabwe.”

Statements recorded from other workmates acting as witnesses all deny hearing Mpofu utter the alleged words. Mpofu joins dozens of other Zimbabweans, from politicians to ordinary villagers, who are in court charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on politically-related issues.

This story coincides with a statement issued by ZLHR programmes manager for International Litigation, Lobby and Advocacy Project, Dzimbabwe Chimbga at last week’s Food for Thought session at the US embassy’s Public Affairs Section. In his lecture presentation on democracy, Chimbga highlighted that there was an alarming increase in cases of people being arrested for insulting the President. “One of the most fascinating things at ZLHR is that everyday we are getting a case of a person being charged with the law of insulting the President. If you say anything critical, especially mentioning governance and in particular the current president you are likely to spend a night in jail,” said Chimbga.

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