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Mugabe death claim backfires

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A teenager was last Thursday arrested for allegedly claiming on Facebook that President Robert Mugabe had died and his body was being kept in a freezer, lawyers said yesterday.

Njabulo Ncube
Deputy Editor

Gumisai Manduwa (18) of Odzi in Manicaland was yesterday released on $30 bail after enduring two days in police cells.

He has been charged with contravening Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly insulting Mugabe.

Manduwa endured two nights in detention, first at Odzi Police Station before being transferred to Mutare Central Police Station where he was locked up on Friday evening pending his appearance in court yesterday.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) intervened to secure his release and he was granted $30 bail by Mutare magistrate Sekesai Chiwundura.

Manduwa’s arrest came at a time when speculation has been rife that Mugabe was not feeling well.

But the 89-year-old leader’s spokesman George Charamba last week rubbished rumours that Mugabe is ailing, saying he was enjoying his leave.

The Zanu PF leader is expected to return to work on February 1, 20 days before his 90th birthday.

The veteran Zanu PF leader has not been seen in public since his return from the Far East on January 10 sparking speculation about his health on social networks.

Manduwa becomes the latest Zimbabwean to be arrested for allegedly undermining the authority of, or insulting Mugabe on Facebook.

In 2011, Bulawayo magistrate Rose Dube dropped the case of Bulawayo resident Vikas Mavhudzi who was arrested and accused of subversion because of an alleged post on Facebook urging Zimbabweans to revolt against the government.

State prosecutors and members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police failed to retrieve the message he allegedly posted on former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s page in February 2011. The message allegedly suggested that the MDC-T leader should emulate pro-democracy protests staged in Egypt.

Mavhudzi spent more than a month in jail before being granted bail in March 2011.

According to ZLHR, insult laws have been routinely used to arrest and detain dozens of people for allegedly insulting and undermining the authority of the Zanu PF leader.

More than 80 similar cases are pending before the Constitutional Court and other subsidiary courts.

Since 2010, there has been a dramatic increase in the arbitrary application of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23).

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