By Fungi Kwaramba
One of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s most vocal allies, Energy Mutodi, was arrested yesterday on charges of undermining President Robert Mugabe’s authority.
A businessman who has also tried his luck in music, Mutodi was picked up by police in Harare early yesterday morning, and has been in police custody at the Harare Central Police Station.
He is likely to appear in court today.
Mutodi told the Daily News yesterday that he was apprehended by six men who were brandishing guns.
He said: “I am currently in police custody at Harare Central Police Station; I am being charged with treason over comments I posted on Facebook.”
His lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, later told the Daily News that his charge had been downgraded to that of undermining the authority of the president and instigating the police and members of the army.
Mutodi recently wrote on his social networking wall, Facebook, that Zimbabwe risked a coup if the thorny succession issue was not resolved amicably, adding that Mugabe should consult the army to avert chaos.
“While a military takeover may be far-fetched in Zimbabwe, it is important for . . . Mugabe to be careful in naming his successor. Any suspicion of unfairness or discrimination on account of tribalism or factionalism may backfire,” he wrote.
“There are key stakeholders that need to be consulted among them the military and the whole security establishment called the Joint Operations Command that is chaired by Vice President Mnangagwa,” he went on.
Mutodi is one of Mnangagwa’s allies who have publicly declared their loyalty to the vice president, for long touted as Mugabe’s heir-apparent.
Ever since he was parachuted into the presidium in 2014, as one of Mugabe’s two deputies, Mnangagwa has been walking a tight rope, amid accusations that he is getting too impatient to see his boss’ back.
Mutodi has, however, warned Mugabe that he would be left counting his losses if he anoints a successor who is not acceptable to the military.
Mnangagwa has been rumoured to enjoy the military’s sympathies.
Mutodi, also wrote on his Facebook wall that African leaders were to a large extent obsessed with power, and do not know when to stop; commit countless crimes while in office and delegate power to their family members much to the disappointment of the military.
While Mugabe recently admonished army generals against meddling in politics, the outspoken Zanu PF politician offered a different view.
“It is therefore an empty talk that the gun does not lead the pen in Zimbabwean politics. The role the Zimbabwean army has played in nurturing president Mugabe’s rule can therefore not be overemphasised.
“Any successor without the backing of the army will therefore be rejected, irrespective whether they have liberation war credentials or not,” said Mutodi.
Police sources told the Daily News yesterday that more diehard supporters of both warring Zanu PF factions — Team Lacoste and Generation 40 (G40) — could get themselves in trouble for failing to tame their loose tongues.
In the past, it was mostly opposition supporters who used to face charges of undermining the authority of the president or treason, which carry a death penalty.
Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa, and MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai, have previously been hauled before the courts, facing treason charges, although they were eventually acquitted for lack of evidence.
Owing to the infighting in Zanu PF, emotions have been running high over Mugabe’s succession, with excitable G40 and Team Lacoste mandarins taking their freedoms of expression to extreme lengths.
It has largely been Zanu PF activists who are pushing for Mnangagwa’s ascendancy that have found themselves locked up, facing either treason charges or the lesser serious one of undermining the authority of the president.
War veterans’ leaders Victor Matemadanda and Douglas Mahiya were last year arrested for allegedly undermining Mugabe’s authority after they allegedly issued a communiqué calling for the Zanu PF leader to step down.
Another proclaimed supporter of Mnangagwa, Godfrey Tsenengamu — a former Zanu PF provincial youth chairperson — has also been hauled before the courts, facing similar charges and is currently out on bail.
Former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda also stands accused of undermining the authority of the president after he accused the First Lady, Grace of effecting what he called a “bedroom” coup, in 2014.
In most instances, cases of undermining the authority of the president have often crumbled under legal scrutiny.
While the Constitutional Court observed in 2013 that Section 31 (a) which criminalises publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State and Section 33 (a) (ii) which criminalises undermining the authority of the president had effect of breaching people’s rights, the ministry of Justice, which ironically is headed by Mnangagwa, insists that the image of the president has to be protected.
Lawyers have previously castigated the Mugabe insult law, which they argued defied the rule of law.
In October 2010, Zebediah Mpofu, a Harare resident, found himself victimised under the same section.
Mpofu, a general hand at a private security firm, had stated that “President Mugabe had ruined the country and that he was going to be dead by December 2010 then MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai would take over as president of Zimbabwe.”
The prosecutors charged that by uttering such statements Mpofu had undermined the authority or insulted Mugabe.
However, Mpofu’s agony ended in October 2011 after a magistrate removed him from remand and ordered the State to proceed by way of summons.
In 2011, the now Chief Justice Luke Malaba ruled that the State’s facts which led to the arrest of a Bulawayo girl on allegations of sending Mugabe’s “nude” picture on the social network, WhatsApp, were confused.
Malaba was commenting on the case of Shantel Rusike, who was charged under the same section after sending a WhatsApp picture depicting a nude Mugabe. Daily News