Former Zanu PF youth leader William Mutumanje — popularly known as Acie Lumumba — will stand trial for insulting President Robert Mugabe after his application for referral of the matter to Constitutional Court was dismissed.
Mutumanje, who appeared before Harare provincial magistrate Vakayi Chikwekwe, is being charged with undermining authority of or insulting the president as defined in Section 33 (2) (b) of the Criminal Law and.
Chikwekwe ruled that is was justified for Mutumanje to go through trial because his utterances did not amount to criticism but were demeaning on the president’s dignity.
The trial was subsequently set for August 29.
“The president, as a fellow human being, has rights not to be demeaned or abused in any manner. This is premised in the principles of our Constitution and has nothing to do with the station held by the human being in question,” Chikwekwe said.
“In his speech the accused person uttered the words f**k you to Mugabe and the question which follows is whether it amounts to insulting and whether it would be a violation of one’s rights. An insult ought to be distinguished from criticism.”
“While one is entitled to freedom of expression it should not go beyond the scope of mere criticism. The accused person has to answer the allegations in a criminal trial. His application is not bona fide and consequently dismissed.”
Prosecutor Oscar Madhume echoed the same sentiments with Chikwekwe and told the court that although Lumumba’s main argument was that the Constitution guaranteed him freedom of expression, that same law also protected Mugabe’s right to human dignity.
“…those words were abusive and derogatory to the president. Do you appreciate the difference between insulting and criticising because the section you are charged under does not criminalise criticism?” Madhume said.
“Do you appreciate that it is an absolute right that has to be exercised reasonably
What then was the meaning of f**k you? From the build-up of that statement the words used meant to express an action against Mugabe. The accused person even accepted in his submissions that he had used ‘strong’ words,” Mudhume said.
However, Lumumba maintained that his utterances were a dramatic way of expressing his displeasure at how Mugabe has run down the country.
“When I attributed the words to be strong I referred to how I had used political dramatisation to express myself. The issue here refers to children of this country who have now been prejudiced of a bright future because of Mugabe’s actions,” Mutumanje said.
Last week, Mutumanje said Mugabe must develop shock absorbers to contain political scrutiny.
He gave reference to a 1979 interview in which Mugabe and his late wife Sally defended their political expressions.
“In 1979, Mugabe was in an interview with Angley Cutter and sitting next to him was his late wife Sally. The journalist asked his wife if she did not feel that people were sometimes too harsh in the way they expressed themselves against her husband, at that moment Mugabe interjected and said it was just politics and one ought to develop a set of shock absorbers,” Mutumanje said.
He told the court that Mugabe’s sentiments on political expressions came after he had said ‘the only good imperialist was a dead imperialist’ a statement which was taken to possibly provoke anger.
“He must do the same too now as he knows the game we are playing here and needs to stop whining,” added Mutumanje.
“May a day come when Mugabe also accounts for his words and actions and may this law also be applied on the president.”
According to State papers, charges against Lumumba arose on June 30, this year when he was launching his political outfit at a local hotel in Harare.
It was alleged that Lumumba addressed the people who attended the launch and referring to Mugabe, he reportedly said, “you have not been insulted, you are only insulted by protesters”