Police drop case against Hwange man charged over social media “abuse”

POLICE in Hwange have dropped a case against a 28 year-old man, who had been summoned to appear in court for allegedly sending a message on WhatsApp protesting against the failure by traditional leaders to compel authorities at Hwange Colliery Company (HCC), the country’s largest coal producer, to remunerate its employees.

facebookZimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers in Hwange in Matabeleland North province had summoned and charged Praise Moyo, a 28 year-old resident in the mining town, to stand trial for allegedly inciting public violence.
The ZRP officers claimed that the Hwange resident allegedly sent messages via cross-platform instant messaging application, WhatsApp groups, questioning why traditional leaders such as chiefs in Hwange were not engaging and persuading listed coal miner, HCC, to pay its employees some outstanding wages and salaries. But Moyo, who had secured legal representation from Lizwe Jamela of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, was set free by ZRP officers on Friday 12 August 2016.
Moyo becomes the latest person to face persecution in 2016 for allegedly “abusing” social media platforms after ZRP officers in January first targeted 46 year-old Ernest Matsapa of Nyanga in Manicaland province, whom they charged for allegedly committing criminal nuisance in contravention of Section 46 (2) (v) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23. ZRP officers charged that Matsapa, a government employee had claimed that President Robert Mugabe was increasingly becoming a burden to his family due to the nonagenarian leader’s advanced age.
In court, prosecutors claimed that Matsapa, who is employed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development as a livestock specialist, unlawfully and intentionally circulated an audio and visual message on a WhatsApp group called Nyanga Free Range, of which he is a member.
The audio and visual clip, the prosecutors charged, had the impression of portraying President Mugabe, who in February celebrated his 92nd birthday, as incapacitated and had become a burden to the majority including his family due to some diminishing responsibility. The circulation of the audio and video clip, the State charged, had the effect of denigrating the ruling ZANU PF party leader in his personal capacity as such material is likely to interfere with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public. However, on 27 June 2016, the State withdrew charges against Matsapa before plea as prosecutors indicated that they were not to proceed with his prosecution.
Zimbabwean authorities have of late been intensifying a government-backed crackdown on social media platforms and applications.
In February, police officers in Bindura in Mashonaland Central province arrested Edson Chuwe, a school head at Shamva Primary School, Edna Garwe who is employed as a typist at the same school and Leman Pwanyiwa, who serves as the secretary of Shamva Primary School Development Committee and charged them for 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 or alternatively criminal nuisance as defined in Section 46 (2) (v) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23. The three school authorities were accused of mocking President Mugabe on social media after they purportedly posted satirical pictures of the ZANU PF party leader on Facebook.
Police claimed that the trio had “doctored” some degrading photographs of President Mugabe using the school computer and had shared a message through WhatsApp, which read; “Mr President isn’t it time to bid farewell to the people of Zimbabwe”.

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