By Alex Bell
04 August 2011
The trial of a Zimbabwean man accused of using the scoail networking website, Facebook, to allegedly encourage regime change, is set to start on Friday.
Vikas Mavhudzi’s trial was meant to get underway in Bulawayo on Wednesday. But a magistrate postponed the case, after police failed to produce the mobile phone Mavhudzi allegedly used to post his Facebook message.
Mavhudzi’s shock arrest in February came after he posted a message of support on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Facebook page. The two line message referred to the civic uprisings seen in Egypt earlier this year, which led to the fall of the Hosni Mubarak administration there.
The message said: “I am overwhelmed, don’t know what to say Mr PM. What happened in Egypt is sending shockwaves to all dictators around the world. No weapon but unity of purpose. Worth emulating, hey.”
Mavhudzi was then arrested over this message and charged with encouraging Tsvangirai to take over the government by ‘unconstitutional’ means or ‘usurping’ the functions of the government.
The State’s case is expected to lie in demonstrating that Mavhudzi contravened the country’s security laws by posting the Facebook message. Observers meanwhile have said that Mavhudzi is being used as part of ZANU PF’s ongoing intimidation tactics, to scare off other people from posting anti-ZANU PF messages on social networking website.
Websites like Facebook and Twitter have proven to be an effect weapon against dictatorial regimes, as was seen in the wave of public unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.