GWANDA Magistrate Wilfed Mafios Moyo will on Tuesday 11 April 2017 deliver his ruling on a freedom bid filed by a 49 year-old man, who was summoned to stand trial for allegedly undermining authority of or insulting President Robert Mugabe.
49 year-old Themba Nyoni, appeared at Gwanda Magistrates Court on Tuesday 04 April 2017 after he was summoned to stand trial on charges of undermining authority of or insulting the President in contravention of Section 33 (2) (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:27 after he allegedly told Abedinico Ncube, the Rural Development, Promotion and Preservation of National Culture and Heritage Minister that President Mugabe was too old and should consider stepping down from his position as the leader of the country.
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers who arrested Nyoni alleged that the former MDC councillor uttered the following words in isiNdebele: “Mina angisoze ngi-join ZANU PF, hambani liyetshela uMugabe a-step down kuthi ngize ngijoine iZANU PF” which the law enforcement agents translated to mean; “Go and tell Mugabe to step down so that I can join ZANU PF.” This reportedly incensed Ncube, who reported Nyoni to ZRP officers and who immediately arrested the former MDC councilor, who has retired from being a politician.
Nyoni’s lawyer Lizwe Jamela of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on Tuesday 04 April 2017 challenged the prosecution of his client by filing an application for exception to the charge preferred against the former MDC councillor in Gwanda and argued that the allegations complained of against his client do not disclose an offence.
Magistrate Moyo will on Tuesday 11 April 2017 rule on Nyoni’s application.
Nyoni was arrested on Saturday 28 January 2017 and charged with undermining authority of or insulting the President in contravention of Section 33 (2) (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:27.
He was set free on Wednesday 01 February 2017, when he appeared at Gwanda Magistrates Court after Jamela argued that his client had not committed any offence to warrant him to be put on trial.
However, the National Prosecuting Authority on 13 February 2017 issued a certificate authorising Nyoni’s prosecution hence he was summoned to stand trial on Tuesday 04 April 2017.
ZLHR has in recent years noted a dramatic increase in the arbitrary application of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23, where individuals have been charged with
allegedly “”insulting or undermining the authority of the President’.
ZLHR’s records compiled since 2010 show that the organisation has attended to close to 150 cases where clients have fallen foul of this law and the bulk of the victims are residents and villagers residing in the politically volatile Mashonaland Central province.
ZLHR has challenged the constitutionality of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) on several occasions, on the basis that it infringes on freedom of expression, particularly of a public figure, and one who must be subjected to scrutiny as a political candidate.
In courts, the NPA has in recent years and months been withdrawing charges against several suspects after declining prosecution and conceding before Constitutional Court judges that the allegations do
not disclose the commission of an offence. This would be after ZLHR lawyers would have petitioned the country’s apex court seeking orders challenging the constitutionality of the insult law.