Zim man in trouble over Mugabe “wrong speech” jibe

ZIMBABWEAN police have arrested a man over some comments, which he allegedly expressed following the recent embarrassing gaffe by President Robert Mugabe during which he read a wrong speech as he presided over the official opening of a session of Parliament.

President Robert Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers in Bindura, in Mashonaland Central province, on Wednesday 23 September 2015 arrested James Mwaya, a 28 year-old resident of Chipadze high-density suburb in Bindura and charged him with contravening Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 for allegedly insulting or undermining the authority of the President.

Four police officers who arrested Mwaya claimed that the Bindura resident uttered some distasteful remarks over President Mugabe’s monumental blunder when he told a ZANU PF party Councilllor for Ward 11 only identified as Masango during a verbal altercation over the blockade of a road that; “Mugabe akura hachazvikwanisa. Achembera, ndosaka akaverenga wrong speech” which the police officers plainly translated to mean that “Mugabe is old, he can no longer stand. That is why he read a wrong speech”.
It is alleged that during the verbal altercation, Masango accused the 28 year-old man and his friends of having placed some stones on a part of a road located close to Mwaya’s residence and this had distracted the free flow of vehicles and pedestrians.

But Mwaya denied the accusation and argued that the blockade had been executed in his absence as he was away attending to some business at his workshop and he had only discovered the barricaded road upon returning home. Masango also accused Mwaya of influencing some youths in the high-density suburb of engaging in opposition party politics in a bid to disrupt some ZANU PF party development initiatives in the area, a charge which he denied during the recording of a warned and cautioned statement by police officers.

Following his arrest, Mwaya had to endure two nights in police cells first at Chiwaridzo Police Station and later on at Bindura CID Law and Order Section, where he was subjected to a lengthy interrogation over his political affiliation and other issues which were extremely personal and confidential.
Mwaya was only brought to Bindura Magistrates Court on Friday 25 September 2015 after he got legal representation from Ernst Jena of Jena and Associates Legal Practitioners and a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and where he was released without formally appearing in court after State prosecutors conceded that their house was not in order as they needed to refer the docket to the Prosecutor-General’s Office to secure authority to prosecute the matter and hence they would proceed by way of summons.

In September, President Mugabe grabbed the attention of local, regional and international media after the 91-year-old ZANU PF party leader delivered a wrong speech during the official opening of the Third Session of the Eighth Parliament.

President Mugabe delivered the speech from the beginning to the end without realising that it was similar with the one, which he had read out in August as a State of the Nation Address. Officials in President Mugabe’s Office blamed the mix-up of speeches on his secretarial office.

There has been 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 with allegedly “insulting or undermining the authority of the President”.

Since 2010, ZLHR has attended to more than 100 cases where clients have fallen foul of this law and the bulk of the victims are residents and villagers residing in Mashonaland Central province.
ZLHR 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.

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