Zimbabwe has charged two of her citizens for insulting and making defamatory remarks against President Mugabe. Allan Chinewaita and Casper Tambara were charged with undermining the authority of the President under section 33(2) (a) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act.
Mr Chinewaita was alleged to have said in Shona “I will not vote Zanu-PF and President Mugabe is a like a dog.”
Tambara also is charged with the same offence as Chinewaita.
In a related incident, an American citizen, Martha O’Donovan, who works for Magamba TV has also been arrested by the Zimbabwean police for allegedly insulting the President in a tweet she shared. This comes as the first arrest made by the country’s Ministry of Cyber Security since its creation last month.
The American was arrested during a raid on her home in Harare in the early hours of Friday.
Zimbabwean police said “Martha O’Donovan insulted Mugabe when she allegedly tweeted that ‘We are being led by a selfish and sick man.”
Though the post did not refer to Mugabe by name, O’Donovan is being charged with “undermining the authority of or insulting the President”.
Could these arrests mean more?
Following the suppression on the freedom of expression in recent times, it is being reported that the move is geared towards the forthcoming general elections in 2018.
Robert Mugabe, who was Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister from 1980-1987, became the President in 1987 and has held power till date.
“As he struggles to hold down his position as the country’s leader and entrench his long rule, Mugabe’s administration has turned to harassing political opponents, including through crafting a law that criminalises making derogatory comments about him,” a report said.
It also added that since passage of the law, a lot of Zimbabweans have fallen foul of the law.
A social media snare
As the Ministry of Cyber Security makes its first arrest, it aims at crimes on social media and websites in general as the 2018 general Presidential elections draw nearer.
Human rights organisation, Amnesty International has condemned the arrest saying it “marks the start of a sinister new chapter in the Zimbabwean government’s clampdown on freedom of speech and the new battleground in social media.”
They also went further to say, charges “confirm fears that this new portfolio will simply be used to punish anyone speaking out against the authorities on the social media platform”.
At 93, Mugabe seeks to run for another five-year term in next year’s Presidential elections.