Richmore Mashinga Jazi, a carpenter from Dangamvuru in Zimbabwe has been arrested and charged after making a joke about the country's president Robert Mugabe's birthday party.
Watching the live coverage of the president's 88th birthday party on Saturday Feb. 26, the carpenter joked that Mugabe must have had help to blow up all the balloons. This seemingly innocent jest has seen Mr Jazi dragged before the court's in Mutare accused of "undermining the authority of the President.," according to a report in AllAfrica.
The accused first appeared in court on Monday Feb. 27 where he was released on bail to appear before the court again on March 12. Mr Jazi's lawyers from the organisation Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR say the law is an abuse of power by the president who hates to be criticised by anyone, no matter how lowly.
"The use and abuse of insult laws is misdirected. That section is too vague and that is why it is being abused. There is rampant abuse of the insult law and it needs to be challenged in courts like ZLHR is doing," said Kumbirai Mafunda, ZLHR communications officer."Zimeye reports that Mr Jazi was enjoying a beer in a bar whilst watching the coverage of the president's lavish birthday celebrations. Someone in the bar heard him make the joke about how the elderly president could not have the puff to blow up that many balloons and called the police. He was arrested as he left the bar.
Zimdiaspora reports the prosecutor in the case, Truman Joma told the court that "Jazi made the statement knowing that there was real risk or possibility that the statement was false and that it could cause hatred or contempt of the person of the President."
The charge of undermining the authority of the President is a statute in Section 33 (2) b) of the Criminal Law, Codification and Reform Act and has been used against anyone who makes any kind of derogatory remark about the president whether they are politicians or just normal citizens. The situation is now so bad that people are afraid to say anything about the President in case it is misconstrued and they find themselves in jail