By Alex Bell
09 January 2013
A joke picture of a ‘naked’ Robert Mugabe has once again seen a young Zimbabwean face criminal charges, after the image was shared on a mobile chat application.
A 20 year old Bulawayo woman, Shantel Rusike, was arrested on Christmas Eve after sharing the image with a colleague, who then reported Rusike to the police.
Rusike was held for four days over the festive season before being brought before Magistrate Tawanda Muchemwa in the Bulawayo Magistrates Court on 28th December 2012. She was charged under the Criminal Law Act for allegedly ‘undermining the authority of or insulting the President’.
The picture, which shows Mugabe’s face on a naked body, was first shared before his 87th birthday in 2011 and has been shared multiple times on social networking platforms. The picture is accompanied by the caption: “Happy 87th Birthday (Operation Matibili).”
Rusike was released on US$100 bail and will be back in court on Friday.
The case against Rusike comes less than a year after Zimbabwean Benias Madhakasi was arrested and jailed for about four months after he was found with the same picture on his phone. He was arrested in Beitbridge in April and charged under the Criminal Law Act. He was only freed in July after the High Court threw out all the charges he was facing.
SW Radio Africa’s Bulawayo correspondent, Lionel Saungweme, said the case “hinges on the prosecution’s conviction that merely showing Robert Mugabe naked is insulting to the President.”
He said the situation reflects ZANU PF’s paranoia ahead of elections, with the party expected to use whatever measures it can to clamp down on what it believes are ‘dissenters’.