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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Jailed for posting presidential ballot on Facebook
    Tichaona Sibanda, SW Radio Africa

    September 13, 2013

    An MDC-T activist, Tonderai Rukato, was last month convicted of breaching the Electoral Act when he uploaded a photo of a marked presidential ballot on his Facebook page.

    The 31 year-old Rukato was then sentenced to ten months in prison, three of which were suspended on condition of good behaviour. The Gokwe based activist appeared in court on August 6th facing charges of contravening the Electoral Act, which falls under the country’s Official Secrets Acts.

    He was arrested in the evening of Election Day after uploading a presidential ballot paper that was marked in favour of MDC-T candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai.

    Rukato, who served a month in prison before being bailed on appeal, told SW Radio Africa on Friday that his troubles began when he ‘excitedly’ uploaded the photo of the ballot that had been doing the rounds on whatsapp.

    ‘I cast my vote in the morning and around midday I saw this photo of a presidential ballot that had been marked in favour Tsvangirai on whatsapp.

    ‘Being a young man and unaware of the consequences I uploaded the photo on my facebook page and as usual friends began making comments about it,’ said Rukato.

    But because he is a well known figure in Gokwe, as his family runs a business there, his actions soon caught the attention of the police and state security agents.

    ‘Around 8pm some police officers came to our house and arrested me. I was charged and kept in cells for 3 days until I was bailed and told to appear in court on the 6th August.

    ‘On the day of the court, I expected to get a warning or worse a suspended sentence but I was horrified when the magistrate ruled that I should serve 10 months in prison for a stupid mistake.

    ‘This was after I explained that I wasn’t even the person who took the photo and mass distributed it via whatsapp,’ Rukato added.

    Despite his protestations, Rukato served 31 days in a filthy jail that had 280 inmates, although it is meant to hold 80 prisoners. He described his time in prison as the most traumatic since he was born.

    ‘What happens inside those prison walls is something that you don’t want to go through again. People die and the food is just horrible. Can you imagine three toilets for 280 inmates,’ he said. His ordeal came to an end last week when lawyers from the MDC-T lodged an appeal that was granted by a magistrate.

    ‘It’s just a small reprieve as I need to clear my name. We need to appeal against the conviction and sentence because as far as I know I did nothing wrong,’ said Rukato.

    A day after being released, his family store in Gokwe was set alight in a suspected arson attack. Goods worth over $2,000 were destroyed in the fire.

    SW Radio Africa is Zimbabwe's Independent Voice and broadcasts on Short Wave 4880 KHz in the 60m band.

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