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Teachers challenge Mugabe insult charges in Supreme Court
Godfrey Mutimba, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
April 01, 2007

MASVINGO — A teacher who wished President Robert Mugabe dead and another who likened his rule to that of Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler, have filed a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court against a section of the Criminal Codification Act that makes it an offence to insult the head of the State.

Selestine Jengeta (36), and Letwin Matereke (34), both employed by the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture at Victoria and Mucheke high schools respectively, were last week remanded to 21 June pending the finalisation of their constitutional challenge. They briefly appeared before a Masvingo magistrate.

Their defence lawyer, Wellington Muzenda of Mwonzora and Associates, is challenging a section of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act.

Muzenda is arguing that the section infringes on the right of freedom of expression, thereby contravening section 20 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

In his papers, Muzenda argues that the Act contravenes several sections of the Zimbabwean Constitution and has petitioned the Supreme Court, sitting as a constitutional court, to determine whether or not the Criminal Codification and Reform Act chapter 9:23 contravenes section 89 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

He submitted, in addition, that section 33(2) (A) (ii) of the same act contravenes section 20 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe in that it derogates the right to freedom of expression.

Muzenda wants the court to rule whether or not derogation is reasonably justified in a democratic society.

The two teachers were arrested on the same day, but in separate incidents, last December for insulting or undermining the authority of the president after making public statements regarding the head of State.

Charges against Jengeta arose on 17 December last year while he was drinking beer in a police pub at Phoneix police camp. The State alleges that Jengeta, who was watching television, wished Mugabe dead when he appeared on ZTV's Newshour, saying his rule was responsible for the suffering of the people.

"Dai munhu uyu afa, zvinhu zvaiita nani hurumende yachinja kana kukatonga mumwe munhu," (If this person died things would be better in this country; the government would change for the better if someone else began to rule) Jengeta allegedly said pointing at Mugabe's image on the screen.

He was immediately arrested by a police officer who was watching television with him.

Charges against Matereke arose on the same day when she was travelling in a commuter bus along Masvingo-Mutare road. Matereke allegedly joined a debate in the kombi when passengers were discussing the incidence of diamonds being smuggled from Marange to South Africa.

She allegedly said: "Regai vanhu vaende nawo ikoko nekuti munyika muno tiri kutongwa naHitler (let the people smuggle the diamonds to other counties as we are being ruled by Hitler in this country)," she allegedly said.

Matereke was arrested by a soldier based at 4:1 Brigade who later force-marched her to Masvingo Central police station when they arrived in the city.

Cases of people facing charges of this nature have been on the increase in Masvingo, but have also occurred in other parts of the country.

Two weeks ago two Chivi men were acquitted after the court found insufficient evidence that they had insulted Mugabe after singing a song that implied the President was sterile.

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