Fungi Kwaramba 11 August 2017
HARARE – One of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s most vocal allies,
Energy Mutodi, was arrested yesterday on charges of undermining President
Robert Mugabe’s authority, the Daily News can report.
A businessman who has also tried his luck in music, Mutodi was picked up
by police in Harare early yesterday morning, and has been in police
custody at the Harare Central Police Station.
He is likely to appear in court today.
Mutodi told the Daily News yesterday that he was apprehended by six men
who were brandishing guns.
He said: “I am currently in police custody at Harare Central Police
Station; I am being charged with treason over comments I posted on
His lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, later told the Daily News that his charge had
been downgraded to that of undermining the authority of the president and
instigating the police and members of the army.
Mutodi recently wrote on his social networking wall, Facebook, that
Zimbabwe risked a coup if the thorny succession issue was not resolved
amicably, adding that Mugabe should consult the army to avert chaos.
“While a military takeover may be far-fetched in Zimbabwe, it is important
for . . . Mugabe to be careful in naming his successor. Any suspicion of
unfairness or discrimination on account of tribalism or factionalism may
backfire,” he wrote.
“There are key stakeholders that need to be consulted among them the
military and the whole security establishment called the Joint Operations
Command that is chaired by Vice President Mnangagwa,” he went on.
Mutodi is one of Mnangagwa’s allies who have publicly declared their
loyalty to the vice president, for long touted as Mugabe’s heir-apparent.
Ever since he was parachuted into the presidium in 2014, as one of
Mugabe’s two deputies, Mnangagwa has been walking a tight rope, amid
accusations that he is getting too impatient to see his boss’ back.
Mutodi has, however, warned Mugabe that he would be left counting his
losses if he anoints a successor who is not acceptable to the military.
Mnangagwa has been rumoured to enjoy the military’s sympathies.
Mutodi, also wrote on his Facebook wall that African leaders were to a
large extent obsessed with power, and do not know when to stop; commit
countless crimes while in office and delegate power to their family
members much to the disappointment of the military.
While Mugabe recently admonished army generals against meddling in
politics, the outspoken Zanu PF politician offered a different view.
“It is therefore an empty talk that the gun does not lead the pen in
Zimbabwean politics. The role the Zimbabwean army has played in nurturing
president Mugabe’s rule can therefore not be overemphasised.
“Any successor without the backing of the army will therefore be rejected,
irrespective whether they have liberation war credentials or not,” said
Police sources told the Daily News yesterday that more diehard supporters
of both warring Zanu PF factions – Team Lacoste and Generation 40 (G40) –
could get themselves in trouble for failing to tame their loose tongues.
In the past, it was mostly opposition supporters who used to face charges
of undermining the authority of the president or treason, which carry a
Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa, and MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai, have
previously been hauled before the courts, facing treason charges, although
they were eventually acquitted for lack of evidence.
Owing to the infighting in Zanu PF, emotions have been running high over
Mugabe’s succession, with excitable G40 and Team Lacoste mandarins taking
their freedoms of expression to extreme lengths.
It has largely been Zanu PF activists who are pushing for Mnangagwa’s
ascendancy that have found themselves locked up, facing either treason
charges or the lesser serious one of undermining the authority of the
War veterans’ leaders Victor Matemadanda and Douglas Mahiya were last year
arrested for allegedly undermining Mugabe’s authority after they allegedly
issued a communique calling for the Zanu PF leader to step down.
Another proclaimed supporter of Mnangagwa, Godfrey Tsenengamu – a former
Zanu PF provincial youth chairperson – has also been hauled before the
courts, facing similar charges and is currently out on bail.
Former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda also stands accused of
undermining the authority of the president after he accused the First
Lady, Grace of effecting what he called a “bedroom” coup, in 2014.
In most instances, cases of undermining the authority of the president
have often crumbled under legal scrutiny.
While the Constitutional Court observed in 2013 that Section 31 (a) which
criminalises publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to
the State and Section 33 (a) (ii) which criminalises undermining the
authority of the president had effect of breaching people’s rights, the
ministry of Justice, which ironically is headed by Mnangagwa, insists that
the image of the president has to be protected.
Lawyers have previously castigated the Mugabe insult law, which they
argued defied the rule of law.
In October 2010, Zebediah Mpofu, a Harare resident, found himself
victimised under the same section.
Mpofu, a general hand at a private security firm, had stated that
“President Mugabe had ruined the country and that he was going to be dead
by December 2010 then MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai would take over as
president of Zimbabwe.”
The prosecutors charged that by uttering such statements Mpofu had
undermined the authority or insulted Mugabe.
However, Mpofu’s agony ended in October 2011 after a magistrate removed
him from remand and ordered the State to proceed by way of summons.
In 2011, the now Chief Justice Luke Malaba ruled that the State’s facts
which led to the arrest of a Bulawayo girl on allegations of sending
Mugabe’s “nude” picture on the social network, WhatsApp, were confused.
Malaba was commenting on the case of Shantel Rusike, who was charged under
the same section after sending a WhatsApp picture depicting a nude Mugabe.