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Zimbabwe Court Quashes Mugabe Insult Cases

FILE: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe stands with his wife Grace, as they pose for a photo at State House in Harare, Oct, 28, 2014.

Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday quashed insult cases brought by the state against several citizens including opposition Movement for Democratic Change secretary general Douglas Mwonzora and three others for allegedly denigrating the person of the president.

The four were accused of contravening the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which criminalizes insults on the president.

The state was alleging that Mwonzora had insulted President Mugabe by calling him a “goblin”.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku had the court in stitches when dismissing state prosecutor Edwin Nyazamba who had insisted Mwonzora had insulted the president.

Chidyausiku countered by saying, “If somebody calls the president a weevil or gamatox, are you going to prosecute that person?’’

Gamatox and weevil are trending words to describe two factions in the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Also in the court was Bulawayo resident, Shantel Rusike, who was accused of insulting Mr. Mugabe after she allegedly sent a text message through a mobile phone depicting Mr. Mugabe as nude.

In another case against MDC-T official, Gilbert Kagodora, the state withdrew the charges after the prosecutor general’s office declined to prosecute.

Police allege that Kagodora while addressing a rally in 2011 had uttered the slogan which says, “Lift Mugabe in the air, lift Grace (the first lady) in the air, and drop them on the ground with a thud.”

The Supreme Court in 2013 had scrapped the controversial insult law saying it breaches people’s rights. But the Constitutional Court had given vice president and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa the right to appeal.

Mnangagwa subsequently appealed arguing that the laws must not be revoked since they protect the reputation of the president and the matter is yet to be concluded.

More than 70 Zimbabweans have over the past 5 years been arrested and charged with insulting Mr. Mugabe.

Lawyer Dzimbabwe Chimbgwa of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told VOA Studio 7 that the ruling is significant in protecting human rights.

Justice Chidyausiku has previously queried the imposition of 20 years as the maximum prison term for criminal defamation claiming this would intimidate the public from freely expressing themselves.