By Tichaona Sibanda
SW Radio Africa
20 March 2014
The MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora has said a law that protects President Robert Mugabe from being lampooned is unconstitutional and impinges on basic fundamental freedoms.
Mwonzora told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that since Mugabe has a habit of publicly ridiculing his political opponents, the law should not protect him when his foes fire back. He said politics is a game of undermining and throwing mud at each other and laws should not be used to selectively crackdown on those who practice it.
The senior MDC-T official said that the law (Section 33 of the Criminal Law Act) functions in a one-sided fashion, where Mugabe literally lampoons his opponents with impunity and gets away with it, while those facing the backlash cannot respond in the same manner.
The Constitutional Court on Wednesday indefinitely postponed a case where Mwonzora was challenging his arrest over charges of insulting Mugabe at a political rally in Nyanga five years ago. The state alleges Mwonzora described Mugabe as a ‘goblin.’
The ConCourt judges quizzed state prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba as to whether such a statement constituted an offence in respect of the Criminal Law Act. The Court wanted an explanation on how somebody expressing himself in figurative expressions, idioms, or relating a dream or a vision, could be committing an offense under section 33.
‘President Mugabe is an opponent of the MDC, just like we are opponents of ZANU PF. We can rarely be asked to say things that are complimentary…we cannot seek to unseat him, which we want to do, without saying things that are not complimentary about him,’ Mwonzora said.
He added: ‘Whether the Concourt thinks I have a case to answer or not is not the issue. The issue is whether we should keep such a law in our statute books. We want the law to go…Zimbabweans should not live with a law like this.’
The law was enacted when Mugabe became executive president in 1987. In the last decade alone dozens of ZANU PF opponents have been arrested on charges of insulting the 90 year-old ruler.
Some including MDC-T youth leader Solomon Madzore, who called Mugabe ‘a limping donkey’, were arrested and detained for weeks.
In almost all democratic countries, including many in the SADC region, citizens can criticize their leaders without fear of arrest or intimidation.