ZIMBABWEAN police on Wednesday 10 October 2012 charged Hon. Elton Mangoma, one of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) negotiators to the Global Political Agreement for allegedly slandering President Robert Mugabe as authorities intensify the clampdown on dissent.

Four police detectives identified as Detective Sergeant Kamuzwimbi, Detective Constable Nzombe, Detective Constable Dickson, Detective Sergeant Gunduza from the Law and Order Section at Harare Central Police Station arrested Hon. Mangoma, who is the Minister of Energy and Power Development at his Chaminuka Building offices in Harare on Wednesday afternoon and detained him at the tarnished police station.

The arrest of Hon. Mangoma, the MDC Deputy Treasurer-General was full of drama as the police first took him to Harare Central Police Station before attempting to transfer him to Bindura Police Station but with his lawyers giving chase, the police made an about turn and returned to Harare Central Police Station where they recorded a warned and cautioned statement from him.

According to police detectives, who were led by Chief Superintendent Charles Ngirishi, Hon. Mangoma contravened Section 33 (2) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act when he allegedly uttered the words; "Chifa Mugabe chifa. Chibva Mugabe chibva," loosely translated to "Pass on Mugabe and go now" on 18 May 2012 at an MDC meeting he addressed at Manhenga Business Center in Bindura, Mashonaland Central province.

Hon. Mangoma, who is represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights member lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa and Selby Hwacha denied the charge in "its totality" and was released after Chief Superintendent Ngirishi recorded a warned and cautioned statement from him.

The arrest of Hon. Mangoma, who was twice arrested in 2011 and later on acquitted and freed on charges of flouting tender procedures in the procurement of fuel and for fixing tenders in the purchase of electricity metres brings to 45 the number of insult cases that ZLHR has monitored and handled in recent months.

Since 2010, there has been a dramatic increase in the arbitrary application of Section 33 of the Criminal

Law (Codification and Reform) Act, where individuals have been charged with allegedly "insulting or undermining the authority of the President". ZLHR has attended to 45 cases, where clients have fallen foul of this law. Due to continued delays in the justice delivery system, most of the cases are pending although two have since been finalised, with the beneficiaries being acquitted.

In other instances, clients have been removed from remand due to failure by the State to prosecute

timeously. The constitutionality of this provision has been challenged on several occasions, on the basis that it infringes on freedom of expression, particularly of a public figure, and one who must be subject to scrutiny as a political candidate. The Supreme Court, sitting as a Constitutional Court, is however yet to make a determination on these cases as some of the matters have not been set down. Some cases were filed as far back as early 2010, and still remain unresolved for unknown reasons. In the meantime, the delay has allowed cases to escalate.

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