A leading non-profit making membership organisation consisting of practicing legal practitioners, which was founded on the premise of fostering and encouraging the growth and strength of human rights at all levels through observance of the rule of law, has bemoaned the continued persecution of Zimbabwean citizens on allegations of insulting the authority of the incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), there has been no significant change between the Mnangagwa regime and that of his predecessor, the late dictator Robert Mugabe, in terms of arrests and prosecutions targeting nationals accused of badmouthing about a sitting Head of State and Government.
The ZLHR made the remarks following the recent court appearance of 42 year-old Hwange-based train engineer, Mehlo Mpala, who stands accused of contravening Section 33(2)(a) of the Criminal Code after he reportedly criticised a war veteran from the area for putting on Zanu PF party regalia emblazoned with Mnangagwa’s images.
In a statement posted on their official Twitter handle, the ZLHR said Mpala mocked the war veteran in question, a one Nyambe Mathe, who is also the ruling party’s Chairperson for Ward 16, telling the former liberation war fighter that:
“he was wearing a good pair of shoes and trousers except for the cap and T-shirt which he said was ‘rubbish’ stuff and that President Mnangagwa’s picture on his party regalia was not good.”
Represented by the ZLHR-affiliated Jabulani Mhlanga, the train engineer is further accused of insulting the 79 year-old strongman after he allegedly told Mathe that Mnangagwa was responsible for causing the suffering of Zimbabweans.
Full Text of the ZLHR Statement:
After the departure of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabweans continue to be arrested (and) prosecuted for allegedly undermining or insulting the authority of President Mnangagwa.
In Hwange, Mehlo Mpala, a 42 year-old man recently appeared at Dete Magistrates Court answering to charges of contravening Section 33(2)(a) of Criminal Code. Mpala, who is employed as a train engineer, is accused of acting unlawfully after he criticised Nyambe Mathe, a war veteran (and) the ZANU PF party Chairperson for Ward 16 while at Cross Dete Business Centre for wearing ZANU PF party regalia comprising of a T-shirt (and) a cap emblazoned with a picture of President Mnangagwa, whom the train engineer accused of causing a lot of suffering for Zimbabweans.
Prosecutors allege that Mpala told Mathe that he was wearing a good pair of shoes (and) trousers except for the cap (and) T-shirt which he said was “rubbish” stuff (and) that President Mnangagwa’s picture on his party regalia was not good.
Jabulani Mhlanga of (ZLHR), who represented Mpala challenged the prosecution of the train engineer without obtaining authority to prosecute from the Prosecutor-General (and) he was removed from remand (and) the State was ordered to summon him should it still want to proceed with prosecuting him.”
Political commentators have, for long, accused authorities in the troubled landlocked southern African nation of applying draconian statutory instruments to silence the dissenting masses agonised by the long-ruling Zanu PF’s 42-year-grip on power.
Nearly five years since Mnangagwa’s seizure of the presidency in a military coup that toppled his longtime mentor, Mugabe, the arrests and prosecutions on Zimbabwe nationals for insulting the president’s authority continue unabated.
This is despite Mnangagwa’s much vaunted declaration of the beginning of a new era that was distinctively divorced from that of the late former president whose iron-fisted rule was dramatically halted following the dramatic political events of November 2017.
In his inauguration speech after Mugabe’s fall five years ago, a buoyant Mnangagwa told thousands of Zimbabweans who attended the ceremony and millions glued to their television sets countrywide that:
“For close to two decades now, this country went through many developments. While we cannot change the past, there is a lot we can do in the present and future to give our Nation a different, positive direction.”
“As we do so, we should never remain hostages to our past. I thus humbly appeal to all of us that we let bygones be bygones, readily embracing each other in defining a new destiny. The task at hand is that of rebuilding our great country. It principally lies with none but ourselves.”
“I implore you all to declare that NEVER AGAIN should the circumstances that have put Zimbabwe in an unfavourable position be allowed to recur or overshadow its prospects. We must work together, you, me, all of us who make up this Nation.“
The Zimbabwe septuagenarian has however been criticised by many for templating Mugabe’s way of running the country which disgracefully fell from its former ‘breadbasket’ status to that of a ‘basket case’.
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