AN MDC-T youth member who insulted Bulawayo Central legislator Dorcas Sibanda on WhatsApp was on Tuesday fined $200 or 30 days in jail.
Donaldson Mabutho (31) of Luveve in Bulawayo, represented by Kholwani Ngwenya, denied the charge of contravening section 88 (a) of the Telecommunications Services Act, which prohibits “sending any message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or threatening character”.
He told the court in his defence that he sent the message as a joke to group members in the WhatsApp chat group where Sibanda was not even a member.
But Bulawayo magistrate Gladmore Mushove convicted and fined him $200 or 30 days in jail.
Jeremiah Mutsindikwa, for the State, had submitted that what had to be established by the court was whether the messages sent constituted an offence, arguing that the Post and Telecommunications Act section 88 clearly says that any person who sends messages that threaten or insult a person shall be charged.
“If the message is sent and someone feels offended, there is a case to answer,” he said.
“The service providers are supposed to be the complainants here.
“Sibanda is just a witness.
“It’s neither here nor there that the messages were sent to Sibanda or not, but what matters is how she felt about the messages.”
Mutsindikwa said it is the intention of the Act to prevent the abuse of the air waves by people.
“The State managed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt as required by law,” he argued.
“All essential elements of this particular chat were supported by printout evidence from Sibanda.
“Whether she is a politician or not, does not matter, but as a citizen of this country, she deserves to be protected by the law.
“There is no reason for sending offensive messages and say it was a joke.
“Saying that I was not sending this message to John, but to Paul does not make sense and that is not a defence.”
Mushove upheld the State submissions before sentencing Mabutho.
The court heard that on November 14 2014, at around 9:21am, Mabutho posted abusive and threatening messages on the MDC-T group chat, through his cellphone, directing them towards Sibanda.