HARARE – A man was
arrested after telling a man wearing a Zanu PF T-Shirt he did not like an image
of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Farai Gwanza, 32, is
set to be charged with the offence of undermining the authority of or insulting
Mnangagwa, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said on Monday.
Gwanza, of Dindi
Village under Chief Chitsungo in Pfungwe, Mashonaland East province, “allegedly
told a colleague wearing a Zanu PF party T-shirt that he doesn’t like the
picture of the person on it,” the lawyers said.
ZLHR said it would be
defending Gwanza – the latest person to be charged with a law which Mnangagwa has
previously defended, but which critics say is draconian.
The law was routinely
used against critics of former President Robert Mugabe, who was toppled in a
military coup in November 2017. Mnangagwa, who replaced him, came in promising
legislative and political reforms, but many now say he is worse than Mugabe.
In November 2013, Mnangagwa vainly tried to challenge a
Constitutional Court finding that a section of the Criminal Law Codification
and Reform Act that criminalises “undermining of the authority of the
President” and communicating falsehoods was unconstitutional.
The Constitutional Court had observed that Section
31(a)(iii) which criminalises publishing or communicating false statements
prejudicial to the State and Section 33(a)(ii) which criminalises undermining
the authority of the President had the effect of violating people’s rights and
invited Mnangagwa – then the Justice Minister – to justify their existence.
Mnangagwa argued that the laws must stay in the statute
books as they were necessary to protect the reputation of the President.
“Is the goal of the protection of reputation of the
President and his office a pressing and substantial objective in our society?
We submit it is,” he said in an affidavit submitted with the court.
The law is one of many draconian provisions set to fall away
when laws are aligned with a new constitution adopted in 2013. The government
has been criticised for the slow pace of re-aligning laws with the