Zimbabwe: Prison Guard Charged With Insulting Mnangagwa Over Mbuya Nehanda Statue

21 June 2021

Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) on Wednesday 16 June 2021 commenced disciplinary hearing proceedings against Peter Kudzai Mushonga, a 29 year-old prison officer, who is accused of insulting President Emmerson Mnangagwa and some traditional leaders.

Mushonga, who is represented by Kudzai Choga of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, appeared before a disciplinary tribunal held at Chinhoyi Remand Prison answering to charges of contravening some provisions of ZPCS regulations namely section 3(1) of the Prisons (Staff) (Discipline) Regulations for allegedly using traitorous or disloyal words regarding Mnangagwa and his government.

ZPCS is also accusing Mushonga of being guilty of an act, conduct, disorder or neglect of duty to the prejudice of good order or discipline as defined in section 46 of the Prisons (Staff) (Discipline) Regulations.

According to ZPCS, Mushonga insulted Mnangagwa and some traditional leaders, who were paying some respect to the statue of Mbuya Nehanda on 25 May 2021 by commenting on his Facebook account on 26 May 2021 that he wished if those people kneeling before the statue could go mad.

Mnangagwa presided over the unveiling of a towering statue in central Harare on 25 May 2021 honouring Mbuya Nehanda, a 19th century anti-colonialist heroine and a spirit medium, who was hanged by colonialists for leading a rebellion against white occupation while some traditional leaders knelt down before the statue and performed some traditional rituals.

During the disciplinary hearing proceedings, ZPCS brought in three witnesses who are all prison officers to testify against Mushonga, who denied the charge and argued that his Facebook account had been hacked. The disciplinary hearing will continue on Friday 25 June 2021.

The prison officer has already appeared at Chinhoyi Magistrates Court, where his trial on charges of undermining authority of or insulting President Mnangagwa will commence on 23 June 2021.

Mushonga is the latest prison guard to be hauled before a disciplinary hearing facing charges of being a traitor and being disloyal to Mnangagwa.

In 2018, ZPCS charged John Mahlabera, a 36 year-old prison officer in Chiredzi with insulting Mnangagwa through posting some political comments on social media.

Mahlabera allegedly posted a message on micro blogging site Twitter, which reads; "Come to Chiredzi my president". The ZPCS said Mahlabera posted this message after an opposition MDC political party rally that was held at Jerera Growth Point in Zaka in Masvingo province, which was addressed by opposition party leader Nelson Chamisa.

ZPCS said by posting such a message on Twitter, Mahlabera showed loyalty to Chamisa and disloyalty to President Mnangagwa.

The ZPCS charged that Mahlabera's conduct was disgraceful to Mnangagwa and the prison officer had no right whatsoever to act in the manner he did.

However, ZPCS later dropped the charges.

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