Monday, September 6, 2010

Magistrate jails man for Mugabe 'wrinkles' insult

Zimbabweans are reeling in shock after a court jailed a young man for describing President Robert Mugabe, 86, as an "old man with wrinkles".

On Friday, provincial magistrate Samuel Zuze sentenced 23-year-old Gift Mafuka to a year in jail with hard labour for "insulting" Mugabe. The court heard that Mafuka made the "insulting" remark to two children wearing pro-Mugabe T-shirts. 


Mafuka asked the boys, aged about 12, why they were wearing T-shirts with a picture of an old person with wrinkles. Mafuka's sentence was, however, reduced by two months on condition he does not call Mugabe old again in the next five years. The Zimbabwean leader will be 91 five years from now.

Zimbabweans complained at the weekend to Studio 7 radio, which is broadcast via VOA, about the sentence. "What's criminal about saying Mugabe is old?" said a caller to the radio station, which the Zimbabwe government has been trying for some time to get off the air. State-owned radio, television and newspapers did not report Mafuka's jailing. Human rights lawyers claimed the stiff sentence was "political" as Mafuka's comments could not in any way be considered a crime. These lawyers have encouraged Mafuka to appeal, saying his conviction and sentence were unlikely to stand up in a higher court.

Mugabe has been in power for more than three decades. His handlers rely increasingly these days on the law to protect his waning image. Mafuka's jailing has sent shock waves among ordinary Zimbabweans and those facing similar charges.

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