HARARE – A Zimbabwean court has acquitted a 36-year-old man who had been on trial on charges of undermining the authority of or insulting President Robert Mugabe.
Nicholas Manditsera, an employee of the State-run National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) had been on trial since last week after he was arrested in September and charged with contravening Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, a law which has been routinely used to nail dozens of political and human rights activists as well as ordinary Zimbabweans.
The 36-year-old, who is employed as a passenger clerk at NRZ is alleged to have insulted Mugabe by uttering unprintable insults referring to the octogenarian leader and his family.
However, Mutare magistrate — one Chiwundura — on Monday acquitted Manditsera, who was represented by Peggy Mapfumo of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights after ruling that there were several inconsistences between the two State witnesses who testified during the trial.
In his defence, Manditsera, who denied uttering the offensive words, charged that Murenje was out to fix him by bringing up the insult charges as there was a long-standing acrimony between the two NRZ employees.
The NRZ employee also argued that he objected to being supervised by his superior while at a bottle store.
Magistrate Chiwundura stated that it was glaring that witness’ statements were only recorded from Manditsera’s supervisor, Ronzerai Murenje and his unidentified relative and not from the other revellers who were present at Njanji Bottle Store where the offence is alleged to have been committed.
The magistrate said what was before the court was Manditsera’s word against that of the State witnesses and as such the court was left wondering who to believe.
The magistrate said owing to discrepancies between the testimony of the two State witnesses, Manditsera’s defence became probably true and as such the court, acting carefully, could not convict the NRZ passenger clerk.