A Zimbabwean prison officer has been formally charged for undermining the president after posting political comments on social media, a legal rights group has reported.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) in an information alert of Monday May 28 said the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) had charged John Mhlabera with contravention of a section of Prison Service regulations, 1984.
The ZPCS “recently summoned John Mahlabera, who is employed as a prison officer at Chiredzi Prison in Masvingo Province, to appear before a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday 12 June 2018,” the statement read.
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.
He is said to have posted a tweet that read: “Come to Chiredzi my president.” Apparently, the president he was referring to was main opposition chief Nelson Chamisa who led a Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai (MDC-T) campaign stop in the said province.
Fresh clampdown on dissent as Zim Prisons and Correctional Service charge 36 year-old John Mahlabera for allegedly undermining President Emmerson Mnangagwa through posting some political comments on Twitter. pic.twitter.com/2teaepCf4X— ZLHR (@ZLHRLawyers) May 28, 2018
“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,” the statement added.
ZLHR have said they has assigned two lawyers to help Mahlabera when he appears before the hearing. It said it had since 2010 compiled close to 200 cases in which people have been charged for allegedly insulting the president.
Zimbabwe goes to the polls in the first post-Mugabe polls after the long-serving leader was deposed in a 2017 de facto coup. President Mnangagwa who took over from Mugabe will face Chamisa as his main opponent. A definite date to is yet to be fixed for the July vote.
Under Mugabe’s regime, a number of political activists and even religious leaders were arrested and charged with insulting or undermining Mugabe. Most of those cases were dropped by authorities after Mugabe’s fall.
A 36 year old man in Zimbabwe has been charged with ‘undermining President Mnangagwa.’— Samira Sawlani (@samirasawlani) May 28, 2018
John Mahlabera was summoned by authorities re: a post of his on twitter which Zimbabwe Prisons Services say illustrated his disloyalty to President Mnangagwa. pic.twitter.com/8qXZ1FMTaH