HARARE – An American citizen — Martha O’Donovan — was yesterday arrested by the police for allegedly posting a tweet which allegedly undermined the authority of President Robert Mugabe.
According to a police charge sheet, O’Donovan, of Magamba TV, allegedly posted a message using username @matigari, which read: “We are being led by a selfish and sick man.”
“The message was accompanied by a photo illustration showing that Mugabe was surviving on catheter,” the police said.
The police — who made her sign a warned and cautioned statement — interpreted the message to be referring to Mugabe as a “goblin”.
Harare magistrate Elisha Singano issued a search warrant for O’Donovan’s property, who denies the allegations as baseless, leading to her arrest.
At the time of going to print, she was still detained by the police, amid indications that she could be charged with undermining the authority of the president.
The search warrant, signed by Singano, read: “Where from information taken upon oath before myself, there are reasonable grounds for believing that Marth O’Donovan of 316 W Charingira Court, Harare using Internet protocol address: 126.96.36.199 committed the crime of undermining the authority or insulting president as defined in Section 33(2) of the Criminal Law Act, Chapter 9:23.
“It is ordered that Marth O’Donovan releases to the police gadgets in her possession in the form of computers, cellphones and any electronic devices for investigative purposes.”
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), who were offering emergency legal support to O’Donovan, were still waiting for the charge sheet by the time of going to print.
The detention comes after government has established a Cyber Security ministry which is expected to clamp down on social media ahead of the forthcoming 2018 elections.
The arrest, ZLHR said, occurred in the morning at her Harare residence with police confiscating her electronic devices including her laptop before detaining her at Harare Central Police Station’s CID Law and Order Section.
“The ZRP officers, who arrested O’Donovan, were armed with a search warrant, which was granted on Thursday November 2, 2017 by Harare Magistrate Elisha Singano authorising the law enforcement agents to confiscate all her electronic devices as they reportedly investigated a case of undermining authority of or insulting president as defined in Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act,” ZLHR said.
“The ZRP officers claimed that Martha O’Donovan, who is represented by Obey Shava of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, posted a tweet on her profile during the recently held Shoko Festival, which referred to a certain Goblin, whose wife and step sons imported a Rolls Royce vehicle.
“However, the reported offensive and insulting tweet does not make any mention of the president’s name.”