By Leopold Munhende
MDC’s Bindura Ward 3 councillor, Brian Kembo was this week dragged to court on charges of disorderly conduct after he allegedly blamed President Emmerson Mnangagwa, for the country’s economic crisis and high levels of stress amongst Zimbabweans.
The case was eventually postponed, after prosecutors indicated that they were still scrutinising the State’s papers to check for the incriminating evidence and will proceed by way of summons.
Kembo is represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human rights (ZLHR) lawyer, Idirashe Chikomba. He is alleged to have boarded a commuter omnibus on 24 October last year in Bindura and proceeded to blame Mnangagwa for failing to deal with the current economic crisis which has led to price hikes and a shortage of basic commodities.
ZLHR communication officer Kumbirai Mafunda bemoaned the continued abuse of authority by Mnangagwa’s government.
“It is worrying that cases where citizens are accused of insulting the President continue increasing even in this so-called new dispensation.
“We consider this to be an assault on dissent,” said Mafunda.
Meanwhile the Zanu PF youth league, Thursday issued a chilling warning to Zimbabweans against insulting Mnangagwa. Politburo secretary for youth Pupurai Togarepi was speaking at a meeting of the youth league in Harare.
“We have now decided to stand up and defend our leadership, so from now onwards we will not allow anybody to insult our President.
“You can criticise but insulting our President or Vice Presidents or any of our party leadership, that we will not accept at all, we also have mouths,” said Togarepi.
Since Mnangagwa rose to power on the back of a military coup in November 2017 before winning presidential elections last year on the promise of widening the democratic space, human rights lawyers have handled close to 10 cases in which citizens are charged with insulting the President.
Under former President Robert Mugabe, the insult law had become the scourge of opposition activists and ordinary citizens voicing their concern about the country’s dire political and economic situation.
The organisation handled some 200 cases during former Mugabe’s near four decade tenure.
The charge carries a minimum imprisonment of a year and has been used by authorities to silence critics over the years especially from main opposition.