Trouble for man with 'naked' Mugabe pictures
- Published on 12 July 2012
Zimbabwe’s draconian laws have come under the spotlight again, following a court case in which a man is in court for possessing computer generated naked pictures of President Robert Mugabe on his cell-phone.
It is offensive in Zimbabwe to insult the President or his office, and offenders face a fine or up to one year in jail.
State prosecutors argue that Benias Gwenhamo Madhakasi was allegedly found in possession of computer-generated “skeletal nude pictures” of Mugabe in his mobile phone. This was after he was arrested for taking photos of the Beitbridge border post dividing Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Madhakasi – who is being represented by lawyer, Lizwe Jamela of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) – has now been remanded to July 24. He was arrested on April 24 this year, and, apart from the nude picture allegations, the state is also holding Madhakasi for taking photos at the border, which is a protected area.
If convicted, Madhakasi faces a fine or “imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or both,” according to the provision he is being charged under.
His lawyer, Jamela, argues that his client is not guilty, as it only becomes an offence when a person publicly makes any abusive statement concerning the President and not possessing computer generated pictures of Mugabe.
“The State is not alleging that he publicly made the statements,” submitted Jamela in the application.
A civic and rights lobby group leader, who said he did not want to be named, said the government was increasingly infringing on its citizens’ rights by limiting freedom and access to information.
He said ruling against Madhakasi would set a negative precedent where people could be prosecuted for contents of their mobile phones and other devices.
In April this year, six Zimbabwean activists convicted of watching online videos of Egypt's Arab Spring protests, had their sentences suspended. The six were caught by police late last year at a lecture hall viewing Internet footage of Egypt's January 2011 protests, which led to the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak.
The Zimbabwean “activists” were tried and found guilty of a "conspiracy to commit acts of public violence".
Those who watched the videos initially faced up to 10 years in prison on the charge, but the court sentenced the six instead to 420 hours community service and a $500 fine each.
However, lawyers representing the accused have now successfully managed to get this sentence suspended.