Zim man sentenced as Mnangagwa fights to defend insult laws

A Zimbabwean man has become the latest victim of the country’s ‘insult’ laws after being found guilty of undermining the authority of Robert Mugabe, at the same time that Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa is fighting to protect the laws.

Tinashe Mupereki was sentenced to two months in jail or a US$100 fine by a magistrate in Marondera. He was charged under the Criminal Law Act after calling Mugabe “nothing but old rubbish,” while at a bar in August.

Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba last month rebuked state prosecutors for abusing the country’s insult laws, which have seen over 70 people facing legal action since 2010 for allegedly ‘undermining’ the authority of the President.

Malaba, while commenting on an ‘insult’ case before the ConCourt, admonished the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) “against prosecuting matters in which statements were uttered in drinking halls and other social places, as the pursuit of such frivolous matters only served to bring disrespect on the Office of the President.”

The case, brought by Bulawayo resident Tendai Danga, was struck off the court roll after the NPA withdrew the charges of ‘insulting the President’. Danga was arrested two years during an argument with a policeman in a bar, during which he was accused of referring to Robert Mugabe in an ‘insulting’ manner.

Justice Malaba on the same day also moved to challenge the constitutionality of other sections of the Criminal Law Act, including one used arrest to journalists on allegations of publishing ‘falsehoods’. He made the ruling in a case in which two journalists challenged the Act, under which they were prosecuted.

“A law cannot be used to restrict the exercise of freedom of expression under the guise of protecting public order when what is protected is not public order,” Malaba said.

The court also appealed to Mnangagwa to appear before it this week “to show cause why” sections of the Act should not be invalidated. Mnangagwa argued in his heads of argument on Wednesday that the ConCourt had “failed” to carefully take a correct approach by ‘confining itself’ to the particular cases before it.

“Statute must be analysed in the abstract so that they will be avoidance of danger of failure to consider the constitutionality of the same section in the light of any other possible allegations based on the same section having been laid against some other criminal aspect,” Mnangagwa has argued.

The matter was postponed indefinitely after lawyers requested time to go through Mnangagwa’s arguments before submitting their responses. – SW Radio Africa

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