Farayi Machamire 8 December 2017
HARARE – Prosecutors yesterday dropped charges of undermining the
authority of the president against war veterans’ leader Victor
Matemadanda, reflecting greater judicial independence under new President
Matemadanda – who was represented by leading rights attorney Beatrice
Mtetwa – was a strident critic of former president Robert Mugabe who was
pressured to resign by the army and ruling Zanu PF party a fortnight ago
after 37 years in power.
Matemadanda, along with other executive members of his war veterans
association, were arrested in July last year for allegedly penning a
damning communique that denounced Mugabe for running down the country,
being divisive and manipulative in general.
The insult laws, which have rarely been used against Zanu PF members,
trailed several of Mnangagwa’s tough-talking allies before Mnangagwa
ascended to president.
Matemadanda was charged for insulting the president.
He faced up to 20 years in jail if convicted.
When he appeared before Harare magistrate Josephine Sande for routine
remand hearing yesterday, the State withdrew the case.
“We are withdrawing the case before plea because PG (prosecutor general)
is yet to peruse the document. If there is need, the accused will be
summoned,” said prosecutor Franscisca Mukumbiri.
A close ally of Mnangagwa, Matemadanda had argued in his bail application
that “the history of this matter shows the extent to which some laws are
being used as a weapon of intimidating the citizens of Zimbabwe.”
“The seriousness of the intimidation is that it curtails the right of the
citizens to fully enjoy their constitutionally enshrined rights and in
this case the right to freedom of expression as protected in section 61 of
“…such laws do not have a place in our constitutional democracy. In
making the press statement, applicant was exercising his freedom of
expression right…and has been held to embrace the right and freedom to
hold, impart and disseminate ideas to others, even if such ideas are
unpalatable to those who hear them.
“The right is also protected in the context of political commentary
notwithstanding the tone of political debates.”