A 25-year-old man will stand trial in November after Harare Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa granted his application for change of plea from guilty to not guilty.
Night Tawona Shadaya, who was convicted for criminal insult on 3 October 2018, for allegedly retweeting
a message from a ghost account in the name of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Chairperson
Justice Priscilla Chigumba will now stand trial on Monday 05 November 2018 after his lawyers Noble
Chinhanu and Idirashe Chikomba of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights filed an application for change
of plea from guilty to not guilty.
Shadaya was arrested on Friday 07 September 2018 and charged with criminal insult for allegedly
impairing the dignity of Justice Chigumba after he allegedly posted an offensive message on Twitter,
denigrating the ZEC Chairperson.
Prosecutors alleged that Shadaya created a twitter account in the name of Justice Chigumba in August
2018, just after the country’s harmonised elections and tweeted a message which reads; “I can’t wait for the
election fiasco to come to an end. I could do with a holiday and some good sex. My body needs a break.”
In doing this, prosecutors charged that Shadaya contravened section 95 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law
(Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.
The State alleged that Shadaya retweeted the same message in the month of August and his conduct had
the effect of causing criminal insult to Justice Chigumba and “seriously impaired the dignity” of the leader of
the country’s elections management body.
Shadaya becomes the latest Zimbabwean to be hauled before the courts on charges emanating from using
social media platforms.
In November 2017, Zimbabwe Republic Police officers arrested Martha O’Donovan, an American citizen
and charged her with subverting a constitutional government after claiming that she undermined authority
of or insulted Robert Mugabe, the country’s former leader through posting a message on social media.
But O’Donovan was set free by Harare Magistrate Nomsa Sabarauta after her lawyers successfully
challenged the continued placement of the American citizen on remand without being given a trial date.
In May, John Mahlabera, a 36 year-old prison officer was arrested and charged with undermining
President Emmerson Mnangagwa through posting some political comments on social media. However,
his employers, the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, later dropped the charges.