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Legal Monitor - Issue 117
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

October 31, 2011

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Bob's picture worth $300

A ZANU PF official has put the value of a banner beaming with President Robert Mugabe's picture at $300.

And now, five Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters are facing criminal charges for allegedly trashing and burning the banner belonging to ZANU PF Marondera district political commissar Stewart Matereke.

The MDC supporters are charged with malicious damage to property under Section 140 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.

Charles Ngwena, a security guard with Marondera Municipality as well as the unemployed duo of Shown Chinai and Brian Phiri were arrested on 19 October while Caleb Marange and Omega Mutsaru were arrested on 26 and 27 October respectively. The five, who are represented by Fred Machokoto of Mambosasa Legal Practitioners who is a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights are currently on bail. They will stand trial on 10 November.

According to the State outline, Matereke was drinking beer with friends at Dombotombo Business Centre in Marondera on 16 October while proudly displaying a banner on the bar wall bearing President Mugabe's face and inscribed: "Our land is our sovereignty" when the MDC supporters allegedly pounced.

The MDC supporters allegedly arrived at the business centre in a convoy of five cars and allegedly pulled down the banner and set it on fire. The five Marondera residents waited until the banner was burnt to ashes, according to the State outline.

"The banner is valued at US$300 and the remaining chuffs can be produced as exhibit," reads the State outline.

Prosecutors say the MDC supporters had "no right to act in the manner they did."

Scores of people have in the past got into trouble for allegedly tempering with Mugabe's posters or making fun of the President.

Two Honde Valley villagers are facing charges of contravening Section 152 of the Electoral Act after they allegedly destroyed a Mugabe political campaign poster in 2008.

Last year, the late Chipinge Magistrate Samuel Zuze sentenced Gift Mafuka to a year in jail with hard labour for allegedly insulting Mugabe. Mafuka was found guilty of contravening Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23 after allegedly quizzing two young boys for wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Mugabe's image.

Besides Mafuka and the Honde Valley villagers, several MPs have since January this year been brought before the courts for allegedly insulting and undermining the authority of Mugabe. In May, police charged MDC deputy chairperson and non-constituency Senator Morgan Komichi with undermining the authority of or insulting President Mugabe after he allegedly sung lyrics likening First Lady Grace Mugabe to a dead donkey.

Senator Komichi has since successfully applied for his removal from remand.

Epworth MP Hon. Eliah Jembere, is also under prosecution for allegedly insulting the octogenarian leader.

In April Mutare police charged Constitution Select Committee (COPAC) co-chairperson and Nyanga North MP Hon. Douglas Mwonzora with undermining the authority of or insulting Mugabe for allegedly enquiring about the health status of the ZANU PF leader.

The police charged the Nyanga North MP with contravening Section 33 (2) (a) (ii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly mocking President Mugabe by posing questions on a portrait of the 87 year old leader, which was positioned in Nyanga Magistrates Court, when he appeared in court in March on charges of inciting public violence together with 23 Nyanga villagers. The police alleged that Hon. Mwonzora uttered the words "Makadii baba? Iri sei mwiri? Riri sei ziso?" The police translated this to mean "How are you father? How is your health? How is your eye?"

In January 2010, Hon. Mwonzora was summoned to stand trial on allegations of likening President Mugabe to a goblin at a rally at Ruwangwe Growth Point in Nyanga North constituency in March 2009.

The police alleged that Hon. Mwonzora uttered the following words: "Ndaona Mugabe achigeza, tauro muchiuno, sipo muhapwa uye ndebvu hwapepe. Pamberi neMDC, pasi nechihurumende chembavha chinosunga vanhu vasina mhosva chichitora zvinhu zvavo. Police took this to literally mean; President Mugabe is a goblin and will run I saw Mugabe bathing, towel on his waist, soap under his armpits and big beard forward with MDC down with bad government of thieves which arrest innocent people and taking away their property (sic)."

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