A ZIMBABWEAN court has set free Rujeko Hither Mpambwa, a former National University of Science and Technology (NUST) student after acquitting her on charges of undermining authority of or insulting President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The 24 year-old former NUST student had been on trial since July 2022 after she was arrested by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers in August 2020 and charged with undermining the authority of or insulting President Mnangagwa in contravention of section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
During trial at Kariba Magistrates Court, prosecutor Caren Musiiwa told Magistrate Tapiwa Banda that Mpambwa, who resides in Kariba in Mashonaland West province, had made an abusive, indecent and obscene statement when she allegedly criticised President Mnangagwa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), which was delivered in Parliament and broadcast across the country in August 2020, alleging that the ZANU PF party leader lacked patriotism.
Musiiwa claimed that Mpambwa, who was represented by Unite Saizi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), posted a comment denigrating President Mnangagwa on a WhatsApp group titled Kariba Hard Talk, wherein she reportedly wrote “He is busy forwarding the Vision 2030 Agenda. He is sick. He should keep quiet about patriotism. He is making us angry.”
The prosecutor said Samu Mawawo, an aggrieved member of the Kariba Hard Talk WhatsApp group, informed ZRP officers, who arrested Mpambwa and seized her Huawei mobile phone handset and sent it to ZRP Criminal Investigations Department’s National Cyber Forensic Laboratory, who extracted her message and compiled an examination report, which was presented in court as an exhibit.
If she had been convicted and found guilty of undermining the authority of or insulting President Mnangagwa, Mpambwa was liable to paying a fine or being imprisoned for a period not exceeding one year or both.
However, Magistrate Banda recently acquitted Mpambwa after ruling that the messages, which were allegedly sent by the former NUST student, were plucked out from other messages, which were not retrieved from her mobile phone and as such the context in which they were allegedly sent, was unclear.
Furthermore, the Magistrate stated that President Mnangagwa’s SONA did not appear fully on the exhibits produced in court and hence the court could not therefore work on speculation when all the alleged offensive words were not retrieved.
Magistrate Banda ruled that the full names of President Mnangagwa did not appear on the alleged offensive message and what purportedly linked Mpambwa to the alleged offence was the name “Emasoni” and the court could not speculate that the said word refers to the President.
Mpambwa is the latest person to be rescued by ZLHR among a growing list of people arrested, prosecuted and persecuted for allegedly undermining authority of or insulting President Mnangagwa.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
No. 103 Sam Nujoma Street, Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: (+263 8677005347, +263 242 764085/705370/708118
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