HARARE – An MDC councillor has appeared in court accused of “undermining the authority” of President Emmerson Mnangagwa for criticising his government’s response to the coronavirus epidemic.
Chrispen Rambu, the councillor for Ward 8 in Chipinge, was freed on bail following a brief appearance at the Chipinge Magistrates Court on Friday.
The allegations arose after he forwarded a WhatsApp message which read: “(Cyril) Ramaphosa just announced a R500 billion stimulus package in South Africa. Seeing him addressing and comparing him with ED [Mnangagwa] you won’t doubt that we are having a fool for a head of state.”
He was charged under section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which prohibits “making any statement about or concerning the President or an acting President with the knowledge or realising that there is a real risk or possibility that the statement is false and that it may engender feelings of hostility towards; or cause hatred, contempt or ridicule of the President or an acting President, whether in person or in respect of the President’s office.”
The crime of “undermining the authority of or insulting the President” can land one in jail for a year.
The specific law used has been found to be unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, but prosecutors continue to use it against opponents of Mnangagwa.
Rambu is represented by Mekias Gwamanda of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.