Presidential insult laws must be abolished

Presidential insult laws must be abolished

Source: Presidential insult laws must be abolished – DailyNews Live

STAFF WRITER      8 December 2017

HARARE – A Harare court yesterday refused to prosecute a war veterans’
leader under an archaic law that punishes insulting the president with a
one year jail term.

Prosecutors dropped charges of undermining the authority of the president
against war veterans leader Victor Matemadanda, reflecting greater
judicial independence under new President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Matemadanda – who was represented by leading rights attorney Beatrice
Mtetwa – was a harsh critic of 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,
formenting divisions and being manipulative in general.

The crackdown against dissent has been central to Mugabe’s authoritarian
drive. The freedom to lampoon political leaders is one of the crucial
differences between liberal democracies and authoritarian states. Freedom
of expression simply cannot be negotiated with autocrats, dictators or

Mnangagwa has been rightly praised for refusing to use laws that undermine
freedom of expression.

After all, Zimbabwe’s highest court has declared unconstitutional the
draconian law which makes it a crime to insult the president. At least 80
cases have been filed in recent years under the law but there has not been
a single conviction.

Under Section 33 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, a person
could be jailed for up to a year or fined $100 for insulting the
president’s office.

A new Constitution approved by 95 percent of Zimbabweans in a 2013
referendum expanded civil liberties.

Yet Mugabe remained in the propensity of punishing free speech under the
guise of national security or insult laws, simply to silence dissent.

It is refreshing that Mnangagwa – an attorney-at-law –  is taking a
different route.

After all, the international law framework governing freedom of expression
is clearly contained in treaty law: Articles 19 and 20 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

There are also relevant but broadly-worded provisions on freedom of
expression in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The withdrawal of presidential insult charges against Matemadanda is a
victory for free speech and a further step away from state censorship

Mnangagwa must now move towards total abolition of insult laws.


  • comment-avatar

    Only the law of Libel should apply. It is part of growing up in a political environment and standing up in front of the Sh*t; “you will be lampooned”. Theresa Mayhem was upset with a recent song that came out called “She’s a Liar” it went up the charts, faster then her knickers could fall down. She could do nothing about this and quite rightfully too. The rhyming lines where all factually correct in that she does lie regularly. She for example, told us all that she headed a compassionate goverment. Then when there was a terrible fire in which 71 people perished, she would not meet the relatives. William did, Corbegn did, all the rest did, but not her.
    In your own case of Mugabe, what people said was facts 100% true, published, well known etc; So why was this wrong, other than to help Muckwalla live in make-believe land. No wonder he failed to understand the graffiti on the toilet wall.