A PRE-SCHOOL matron in Bulawayo who allegedly told a subordinate to ask for her pay from President Robert Mugabe was yesterday acquitted of charges of insulting the veteran ruler.
Stella Soutter (75) of Kumalo was represented in the case by Modecai Donga and denied the charge of undermining or insulting the president as defined in Section 33 (2) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and causing hatred, contempt or ridicule.
Bulawayo magistrate Gladmore Mushove found her not guilty and acquitted her after Donga filed an application for discharge at the close of the State’s case citing lack of evidence.
In acquitting her, Mushove said: “It was the submissions by your defence that you did not publicly insult the president of Zimbabwe as per the section of the law which states that anyone who publicly insults or undermines the authority of the president shall be liable for the charge. Thus it was submitted that these allegations were made by the complainant out of malice; that is she (the complainant) made them to involve the president without clear proof.”
Mushove said the complainant also failed to tell the police the actual dates on which Soutter allegedly made the remarks.
“It was stated that you allegedly insulted the president in public yet according to evidence by the complainant, that was done in your office, which is not a public place and the State did not oppose that,” he ruled.
“Looking at the charge when you allegedly uttered those words on four occasions, you are said to have been in your office and your office is not a public place, but a private place. Thus I will have you discharged at the close of the State’s case and that means you are acquitted.”
The State represented by Simbarashe Manyiwa, alleged that during the period between October 2012 and January 2013, Soutter, who works with the complainant Tafadzwa Satamburwa of Nkulumane 5 in Bulawayo, allegedly abused the president’s name each time her subordinate demanded her pay.
Satamburwa was employed as a teacher at the institution while Soutter is employed as a matron.
It was alleged that sometime between October 2012 and January 2013, Soutter would insult Satamburwa and Mugabe whenever the complainant demanded her pay.
The State alleged that at the end of October 2012, Satamburwa went to Soutter’s office and demanded her pay and Soutter allegedly said: “You should go and claim the money from Mugabe.”
When she asked which Mugabe she was referring to, Soutter allegedly said: “your president.”
In November 2012, Satamburwa went again to Soutter’s office to demand her pay and she allegedly said: “You black people of Mugabe, I do not want to see you here asking for pay.
“Just work and when you want your pay, go and get it from your Mugabe. I will never pay you. Go and report me to your Mugabe.
“What do you think Mugabe is going to do to me? I will chase (sic) you from work and see what Mugabe will do to me.”
In December 2012 and January 2013, Satamburwa was said to have again demanded her pay from Soutter and she allegedly told her to go and ask for it from Mugabe.
Satamburwa reported the matter to the police and Soutter was arrested in March 2013.