PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe last Friday likened the leader of the MDC’s anti-senate faction Morgan Tsvangirai to his dog and warned of severe consequences if he led people into the streets.
Digressing from his prepared speech at the bur
ial of his late aide-de-camp who was declared a national hero, Winston Changara, Mugabe said he used to have a dog named Sekaurema that used to run back home after being taken for hunting expeditions.
“Now I heard that Tsvangirai ran away before he could reach Mgagao (a base for war training in Tanzania). He is like Sekaurema,” Mugabe said. Before that he had delivered a litany of insults to the faction leader and others opposed to his policies.
Commentators said this week it was regrettable that Mugabe insulted people with impunity, fully aware that they could not respond in the same manner due to at least four laws that protect him from similar utterances.
They said that anyone who responds to Mugabe’s attacks must be careful as they may end up being prosecuted.
It is an offence under the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, and the General Laws Amendment Act to make utterances that may engender feelings of hostility or cause hate, ridicule or contempt towards Mugabe or his office.
UZ analyst Eldred Masunungure said: “I listened to the speech.
It was regrettable and unstatesmanlike. A president of a country, even if he is an executive president, must use statesmanlike language.
The speech was unacceptable to any fair-minded person”.
Masunungure added that the laws that protect Mugabe against insult when he himself slanders others at will must be taken in the context of the uneven political playing field that favours the status quo.
Human rights lawyer Arnold Tsunga said the “insult laws” are mostly associated with a dictatorship that seeks to shield itself from public scrutiny and accountability.
“Insult laws are mostly used for intimidating society from giving opinions on how the country is being run,” he said.
“Where there is a dictatorship, insult laws are used to prevent public scrutiny of the chief executive officer of the country. They are not in the public interest as they are used to champion the selfish and narrow interest of the dictator,” Tsunga added.
A number of people have been arrested in the past for giving their opinion on the state of affairs they blame on Mugabe.
In November 2004, an unemployed Chitungwiza man was arrested for allegedly saying in a bus: “Mugabe is a dictator who rules by the sword.”
The following month, a Harare man, Arnold Bunya, spent Christmas in jail after calling Mugabe thick-headed.