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Monitor Issue 102
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
July 20, 2011
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eyes on facebook trial
The trial date for the first person to be arrested in Zimbabwe in
connection with a facebook posting has been set for and will resume
in two weeks time.
Vikas Mavhudzi of Bulawayo made history when he was nabbed by police
on 24 February for allegedly posting a facebook comment on Prime
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's wall.
Magistrate Gideon Ruwetsa is expected to preside over the matter,
while Jeremiah Mutsindikwa will prosecute for the State.
Mavhudzi's lawyers Lizwe Jamela and Nosimilo Chanayiwa of
Lawyers for Human Rights say the State case is weak.
The 39-year-old is being charged with subversion after allegedly
suggesting that Prime Minister Tsvangirai should emulate events
in Egypt that saw long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak fall to a popular
"I'm overwhelmed, don't know what to say Mr PM.
What happened in Egypt is sending shockwaves to all dictators around
the world. No weapon but unity of purpose. Worth emulating, hey,"
Mavhudzi is alleged to have posted on Tsvangirai's facebook
Prosecutors say Mavhudzi suggested to Prime Minister Tsvangirai
"the taking over or attempt to take over the government by
unconstitutional means or usurping the functions of the government".
Mavhudzi languished in remand prison for weeks after his arrest
following the prosecutors' argument that the threat of an
Egyptian style revolution was real. The Magistrate Court denied
He was only freed after
Jamela and Chanayiwa successfully appealed against the Magistrate
Court's ruling at the High Court. Social networking sites
such as facebook and Twitter became effective tools to mobilise
against dictators who keep a strong hold on the media.
In Egypt and Tunisia, where dictators muzzled the media young activists
rose triumphantly against their regimes using these powerful new
Locally, the new media tools have become a hazard for Mavhudzi,
as the State widens its control to cover social networking sites.
While social networking sites have become popular in urban areas,
the majority of Zimbabweans who stay in rural and farming communities
have no access to such new media.
But that has not stopped the Zimbabwean government from being on
the edge since the revolts in North Africa.
Mavhudzi was arrested just as police
swooped on 45 people, including International Socialist Organisation
local representative Munyaradzi Gwisai for watching television footage
of Egyptian and Tunisian revolts.
Gwisai and five others claimed in court that they were tortured
while in police custody. They were charged with treason but the
State has since indicated that it will prefer lesser charges.
the ZLHR fact
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