By Tendai Kamhungira
Prosecutors yesterday dropped charges of insulting President Robert Mugabe against former Zanu PF youth leader William Mutumanje — popularly known as Acie Lumumba — marking a failure by the State in the high profile case.
Judges in the Constitutional Court (Con-Court) had given prosecutors time to decide whether to proceed against Mutumanje, who was accused of undermining the authority or insulting the president, or withdraw the charges.
Prosecutors have said Mutumanje, who leads the fledgling opposition party Viva Zimbabwe, undermined the authority of the president by insulting the leader saying “f**k you Robert Mugabe” at a press conference.
Mutumanje’s case was referred to the Con-Court after he argued that his constitutional right to freedom of expression had been trampled on when he was charged under Section 33 (2) (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act) for the alleged insult.
His lawyer – Zvikomborero Chadambuka – insisted this was a fair comment.
Mutumanje became a free man after the State indicated that it intends to withdraw the charges before the Harare Magistrates’ Court.
Chadambuka told the full Con-Court bench led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba that the State did not wish to proceed with the case.
“The State has advised us that they intend to withdraw the charges in the lower court and we have agreed, subject to the court’s discretion that the matter be removed from the roll,” Chadambuka said.
Prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba confirmed the withdrawal, before Chadambuka withdrew the application.
“I do confirm the position as indicated by the applicant’s counsel. The applicant (Lumumba) will be appearing at the magistrates’ court on the 12th of June and by then, we would have communicated our position.
“The decision is being propelled by the Mwonzora case which was brought to our attention…,” Nyazamba said.
MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora was in 2015 cleared of any wrongdoing following allegations that he called Mugabe a goblin under similar charges faced by Mutumanje.
The collapse is a blow to the State, which has secured few convictions, and has yet to prove it can hold critics of the president to account.
Zimbabwe’s highest court in October 2013 declared unconstitutional the Criminal Code which makes it a crime to insult the president.
Prosecutors should not be overzealous about charging people who comment about Mugabe “in drinking halls and other social places”, the Con-Court ruled then.
Almost 100 cases have reportedly been filed in recent years under the law.
Charges against Lumumba arose on June 30 last year, when he was launching his political outfit Viva Zimbabwe at a Harare hotel.
During his address, Mutumanje, referring to Mugabe, reportedly said: “you have not been insulted, you are only insulted by protesters.”
“…Mugabe f**k you, I am drawing the red line, our kids are in trouble so, it’s a red line…and my name is Lumumba, Lumumba, Lumumba…,” the court heard.
Mutumanje had defended his utterances saying they were a dramatic way of expressing his displeasure at how Mugabe has run down the country.
“In 1979, Mugabe was in an interview with Angley Cutter and sitting next to him was his late wife Sally. The journalist asked his wife if she did not feel that people were sometimes too harsh in the way they expressed themselves against her husband, at that moment Mugabe interjected and said it was just politics and one ought to develop a set of shock absorbers,” Mutumanje argued.
Mugabe further said “the only good imperialist was a dead imperialist” a statement which was taken to possibly provoke anger.
“He must do the same too now as he knows the game we are playing here and needs to stop whining,” Mutumanje said.
He further said: “May a day come when Mugabe also accounts for his words and actions and may this law also be applied on the president.” Daily News