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Legal Monitor - Issue 116
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

October 27, 2011

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Biscuit man dodges State bite

Prosecutors that had been having a meal out of a case in which a Harare resident was accused of insulting President Robert Mugabe have come out empty.

Zebediah Mpofu, who came to be known as the "biscuit man" got into trouble after allegedly telling a ZANU PF workmate that people like him were only beginning to afford lunch because of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's entry into government.

Mpofu, 52, last week walked out of court a free man after Magistrate Reward Kwenda turned down an application for further remand by State prosecutors seeking to postpone Mpofu's trial after State witnesses failed to turn up in court, including the complainant in the matter.

The State was charging Mpofu under Section 33 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 as read with Section 33 (2) (a) of the same Act for allegedly undermining the authority or insulting the President.

According to the State outline, Mpofu was at work in October last year when he went to Gilbert Matarutse's office. Matarutse, a security officer known to be a ZANU PF supporter, was having his lunch at the time.

"The accused shouted to Gilbert through the window, saying that the biscuits and the cascade he was having were brought by MDC-T through its leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai," read the State outline.

"He went further to say that President Mugabe had ruined the country and that he was going to be dead by December 2010 then Morgan Tsvangirai would take over as President of Zimbabwe," the State charged.

Mpofu's lawyer Jeremiah Bamu of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights had argued that the charges should not stick because the law under which Mpofu was being charged "is a negation of democratic principles."

"It is just an alarming indication of a sad state of affairs where citizens are not allowed to level any form of criticism against the President as doing so will result in prosecution. The law is a negation of democratic principles and an unnecessary gag on legitimate criticism," Bamu said then.

But it was the non-appearance of State witnesses that did further damage to the State case.

State witnesses as well as the complainant Matarutse all failed to turn up in court for the fourth time since August when the trial was scheduled to commence.

The trial was all along being postponed to allow the witnesses and the complainant to appear in court. Magistrate Kwenda removed Mpofu from remand and ordered the State to proceed by way of summons if they intend to pursue the matter.

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