PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe might have fallen foul of Section 99 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act after his bizarre claims that former Vice-President Joice Mujuru dabbled in witchcraft in an alleged bid to oust him.
The section criminalises indicating witches and wizards, and legal experts said the 91-year-old leader had crossed the line, but could not be prosecuted because of the immunity he enjoys.
Mugabe’s verbal onslaught against Mujuru that began in December last year reached a new low on Saturday during his 91st birthday bash in Victoria Falls where he alleged that his former deputy engaged Nigerian sangomas to eliminate him.
He claimed that at one of the rituals, Mujuru was half naked and used chickens to cast spells on his family and rival Zanu PF leaders.
Mujuru dismissed Mugabe’s rants as “presidential conjecture and fantasy based on outright lies”. Lawyers yesterday said the president had no right to make such allegations against the former Zanu PF official.
MDC-Renewal team spokesperson and lawyer Jacob Mafume said Mugabe was probably drunk from watching too many Nigerian movies.
“He contravened the Witchcraft Suppression Act as amended literary by branding former VP Mujuru a witch,” he said.
“He confuses Nigerian movies he is watching with reality on the ground. He has to be prosecuted over such criminal allegations.
However, the problem is that he is abusing the presidential immunity to attack citizens who can’t defend themselves against him when he made such malicious allegations after having a Nigerian movies binge.”
He added: “But what it illustrates is that we should have an uppercut age limit for one to continue being president. Here we have a whole president who is afraid of beheaded chickens?”
His sentiments were echoed by MDC-T spokesperson and lawyer Obert Gutu, who said Mugabe was taking advantage of the presidential immunity.
“The Witchcraft Suppression Act as amended in 2006 specifically criminalises accusing anyone of being a witch or dabbling or practicing witchcraft or sorcery,” Gutu said.
“That said, it’s clear Mugabe contravened the Witchcraft Suppression Act in that respect.”
He said if he was not a sitting president, Mugabe would have been prosecuted over such allegations.
“For now he enjoys presidential immunity in terms of Section 98 of the Constitution which states: ‘While in office, the president is not liable to civil or criminal proceedings in any court for things done or omitted to be done in his personal capacity’,” he said.
Gutu added that Mugabe could be prosecuted or sued as soon as he left office.
Another lawyer, Chris Mhike, said Mugabe should be liable to punishment for contraventions of law because citizens were all equal before the law at least on paper, the president included.
“Technically speaking, if former VP Mujuru formally reported that matter to the police as a complainant, the president could be arrested and subsequently prosecuted for contravening Section 99 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23).
“In terms of that section, any person who groundlessly or by the purported use of non-natural means accuses another person of witchcraft shall be guilty of indicating a witch or wizard and liable: (a) in a case of any purported use of any non-natural means, to a fine not exceeding level 10 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or both; or (b) in any other case, to a fine not exceeding level six or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or both,” Mhike said.
However, he said realistically, he did not see Mujuru having the guts to file a report with the police.
“In the unlikely event of such a report being made, I seriously doubt that the National Prosecuting Authority — headed by Johannes Tomana, who serves at the pleasure of the president — would be principled or audacious enough to haul Mugabe to any criminal court of law,” Mhike said.
He said Mujuru had every right to sue Mugabe for defamation under the civil procedures of the law.
Given Zimbabwe’s long history in the perpetuation of impunity, Mugabe would probably get away with all these witchcraft and wizardry-related allegations and offences, he said.