Court bails Mthwakazi activist arrested for pointing at Mnangagwa portrait

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A BULAWAYO court freed on bail a man detained for insulting the president while testifying before a commission probing the fatal shooting of six civilians during post-election protests in August, lawyers said on Monday.

Prosecutors said Wisdom Mkwananzi, 32, pointed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s official portrait hung on the wall of a hall where the commission was hearing evidence from witnesses, and said: “I am an orphan because of this man. He killed my parents.”

He was accusing Mnangagwa of leading Gukurahundi, a government crackdown in the 1980s during which rights groups say at least 20 000 suspected government opponents were killed.

Mkwananzi was released on $200 bail, according Kumbirai Mafunda, spokesperson for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

“He was charged with undermining the authority of the president, assaulting police officers during his arrest and lying under oath,” Mafunda told AFP.

Mkwananzi is the latest person to be charged with insulting Mnangagwa.

Earlier this month, Alexander Chidzedzere was arrested in the northern town of Kariba on accusations of undermining the authority of the president after he alleged that the ruling Zanu-PF party won the July 30 general elections through rigging.

In May, John Mahlabera, 36, an officer at Chiredzi prison in the southern province of Masvingo, was summoned to appear before a disciplinary hearing after he allegedly called main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa “my president” on social media.

In August, a well-known critic of the president, Munyaradzi Shoko had charges against him dropped after being briefly held for posting on Facebook that the president’s name was “generally associated with evil and devilish deeds”.

Mnangagwa took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe following a brief military takeover in November 2017 and he went on to win the presidential election.

During Mugabe’s rule arrests on charges of insulting the president were common.

Human rights lawyers said this year that since 2010 they had represented nearly 200 people arrested and charged for insulting or undermining the authority of the president.