ZIMBABWE – A Bindura man who said President Robert Mugabe read the wrong speech at the opening of a new session of Parliament because he was too old, has been charged for denigrating the 91-year-old leader.
James Mwaya, 28, of Chipadze high-density suburb, told a Zanu PF councillor during a heated altercation that Mugabe had repeated an address he gave to the legislature because he had lost control of his faculties because of advanced age.
Mwaya allegedly told the Zanu PF councillor: “Mugabe akura haachazvikwanisa. Achembera, ndosaka akaverenga wrong speech. (Mugabe is old, he can no longer cope with the rigours of the presidential office. He is too old, that is why he read a wrong speech).”
Apparently, the veteran leader read the 25-minute-long speech through to the end, apparently unaware that he was delivering the same text he presented during his State-of-the-Nation Address a month earlier.
George Charamba, the presidential spokesperson, said the mix-up happened in the former guerilla leader’s secretarial office.
Mwaya was charged with contravening Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 for allegedly insulting or undermining the authority of the President.
He pleaded not guilty to contravening the law.
Mwaya, who has retained Ernst Jena of Jena and Associates Legal Practitioners and a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, was also accused by the Zanu PF councillor of influencing some youths in the high-density suburb to engage in opposition politics.
He further accused Mwaya of disrupting Zanu PF development programmes in the area.
Mwaya staunchly denied the charge during two nights of intense interrogation at Chiwaridzo Police Station and later on at Bindura CID Law and Order Section where his warned and cautioned statement was recorded, according to his lawyer.
He was quizzed about his political affiliation and other issues which were extremely personal and confidential, the Daily News was told.
The case was transmitted to the Bindura Magistrates’ Courts where Mwaya was released without formally appearing in court after State prosecutors referred the docket to the prosecutor-general’s office to secure authority to proceed with the matter.
Police said they would proceed by way of summons.
Zimbabwe’s highest court has declared unconstitutional the criminal code which makes it a crime to insult the president.
In a landmark ruling, the Constitutional Court ruled that prosecutors should not be overzealous about charging people who comment about Mugabe “in drinking halls and other social places.”
Under Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, a person could be jailed for up to a year or fined $100 for insulting the president.
Mwaya is just the latest of dozens of officials charged under the law.
One was arrested for labelling Mugabe a dictator who ruled by the sword and another was jailed for calling him thick-headed.
Mugabe has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980.
A new Constitution approved in a March 2013 referendum imposed greater checks on presidential powers, imposed greater socio-economic rights and civil liberties.