A PRISON officer based in Chiredzi has been summoned to appear before the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services internal disciplinary hearing after he allegedly heaped praises on main opposition MDC-T president Nelson Chamisa, allegedly describing him as “my president”.
In summons in possession of NewsDay (case number 2929948A) John Mahlabera is being charged with contravening section 3 (1) of the Prisons (Staff) Discipline Regulations 1984 of “using traitorous or disloyal words regarding the President or the government” or alternatively section 3 (46) of “being guilty of any other act, conduct, disorder or neglect of duty to the prejudice of good conduct or discipline”.
According to the charge sheet, on April 9 near Chiredzi Prison, Mahlabera “unlawfully” made political comments on his Twitter handle after an MDC-T rally held at Jerera Growth Point in Zaka, which was addressed by party president Nelson Chamisa.
Mahlabera, according to the charge sheet, wrote: “Come to Chiredzi my President” on his Twitter account, thus showing loyalty to the opposition party president, while exhibiting disloyalty and disgraceful contact (sic) to the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Head of State and Government and the Commander-in-chief-of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces or his office”.
The summons, on a prisons letterhead, were written by officer-in-charge of prisons police, one M Ferenando, and copied to the officer commanding prisons in Masvingo province.
Mahlabera’s lawyer, Collins Maboke, of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), said his client is set to appear before the disciplinary hearing on June 12 in Masvingo.
Maboke said the allegations infringe on his client’s freedom of expression
“First of all, they do not have evidence to the effect that the Twitter account belonged to my client. Secondly, how did they come to the conclusion that he was referring to the president of the MDC-T, Nelson Chamisa? What if he was referring to another president of an association or President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Again, the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression,” he said.
Mahlabera joins a long list of 200 other Zimbabweans-according to the ZLHR, who have been arrested and prosecuted in courts by the previous administration of ex-president Robert Mugabe for undermining the authority of and insulting the president.