18 January 2014

Zimbabwe: Teen Held Over Mugabe Dead Facebook Post

Photo: IRIN
Zimbabwe's Riot police (file photo).

A TEENAGER has been arrested over a Facebook post claiming President Robert Mugabe is dead and being preserved in a freezer.

Police arrested Gumisai Manduwa, an 18 year-old from Odzi in Manicaland province on Thursday and charged him with insulting Mugabe after he allegedly posted a message on Facebook claiming that the octogenarian had kicked the bucket and was being preserved in a freezer.

According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) representing the teenager, Manduwa endured two nights in detention, first at Odzi Police Station before being transferred to Mutare Central Police station where he was locked up on Friday evening pending his appearance in court on Saturday.

"The teenager was freed on bail on Saturday morning after lawyers from ZLHR intervened to secure his release. He was granted $30 bail by Mutare Magistrate Sekesai Chiwundura," ZLHR said in a statement Saturday.

Speculation over Mugabe's health has been rife since the veteran leader, who will be 90 in February, returned from his annual break in Singapore where he has also sought medical attention.

Mugabe's return from foreign trips is usually a whole ceremony in itself with a phalanx of ministers, top party and government officials as well as security services chief's lining up to welcome him at Harare International Airport.

The State media is also always on hand to cover the event. Yet no such ceremony attended his return on January 10 amid rumours he had collapsed while abroad.

Officials however dismiss the gossip, insisting Mugabe is well and enjoying what remains of his annual leave at his Borrowdale home in Harare.

Meanwhile, Manduwa becomes the latest person to be arrested for allegedly insulting Mugabe with his case the second ZLHR has dealt with in recent years.

In 2011, Bulawayo Magistrate Rose Dube dropped the case of Bulawayo resident, Vikas Mavhudzi, who was arrested and accused of subversion over an alleged post on Facebook.

He was freed after no evidence of the message could be found.

Prosecutors and the police failed to retrieve the message Mavhudzi allegedly posted on former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's page in February 2011 which suggested the MDC-T leader should emulate pro-democracy protests staged in Egypt.

Mavhudzi spent more than a month in jail before being granted bail in March 2011.

In Zimbabwe, the insult laws have been routinely used to arrest and detain dozens of people for allegedly insulting and undermining the authority of the Zanu PF leader.

More than 80 similar cases are pending before the Constitutional Court and other subsidiary courts of the land.

Since 2010, there has been a dramatic increase in the arbitrary application of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23).

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