WhatsApp status ‘insulting’ President Mnangagwa lands Byo man in court

A WhatsApp video status of a cartoon character with contents allegedly insulting President Emmerson Mnangagwa has landed a Bulawayo man in court. 

35-year-old Victor Majoni, a manager at Mandalay Farm in Umguza, Tuesday, was arraigned before Bulawayo Provincial Magistrate Shepherd Mjanja on allegations of insulting/undermining the authority of the President. 

Majoni was represented by Nqobani Sithole of Ncube Attorneys.

The court heard that Majoni was reported to the police by Zanu-PF secretary for administration youth league for Ward 8, Remigious Komboni for the alleged offence. 

Komboni testified in court that he does farming activities in Umguza at a farm next to the one where Majoni is employed hence the two are in several WhatsApp groups and usually communicate via the same platform. 

Komboni stated that Majoni posted the video on his status a few days after president Mnangagwa had announced that citizens should fast and pray for the nation. 

“I was going through WhatsApp statuses on my phone one day and I saw the status on Majoni’s phone. I sent him a message to warn him he was out of line but he ignored my texts. I thus approached the councillor and the Member of Parliament before I proceeded to the police. He later told me his nephew is the one who had uploaded the status,” testified Komboni. 

Sithole, in cross-examination, challenged Komboni’s evidence, citing that the duo had a sour relationship because of their different political affiliations and on several occasions, Komboni had threatened Mujoni with unspecified action.

Sithole argued that the allegations were malicious as the insults are said to have been chanted by the cartoon character and yet still there was no evidence showing that he had created the particular cartoon character. 

“Allegations he is facing are that he insulted. But he didn’t insult, it was the cartoon. He did not even add anything to the contents of the video. What is worse is the fact that he is not the one who uploaded the status,” argued Sithole. 

“The State witness (Komboni) was told by my client that the status was uploaded by his nephew. He explained that he has two cell phones and one always stays back home for communication purposes with his family, but Komboni conveniently left out that crucial fact when he submitted his statement to the police.”

Sithole added that Komboni abused his authority as someone who has access to the councillor and MP, thus he acted overzealously and went overboard. 

“The Constitution provides for freedom of expression, and whoever designed the post, who is not the accused person, is the one responsible for that content. You’re an overzealous character who, according to my client, have on several occasions uttered tribal slurs to him. You have threatened him with unspecified action. You know he has two cellphones. You can’t even deny that he is not the one who uploaded the video,” Sithole said. 

Sithole, after his submissions, pleaded with the court to drop the charges due to lack of evidence. 

But the State, led by George Rufumoyo, was adamant that sufficient evidence had been given that the offensive video had indeed been uploaded on Majoni’s phone and that he had a case to answer. 

Magistrate Mjanja ordered that Sithole submits in writing an application for discharge at the close of the State case by October 19 and that the State responds by October 22. 

Mjanja said his ruling will be delivered on November 9 after Mujoni finishes writing his examinations at Midlands State University. 

The State case, according to Rufumoyo, alleged that the video uploaded by Mujoni had the following contents: 

“Mr Mnangagwa don’t place me away from God as you see I laughed as I saw this video instructing Zimbabweans to fast for days while praying, people are already fasting, they are hungry in their homes because they have nothing to eat. Which other fasting are you talking about, grow up. Do you ever think before talking or you are referring to the elite who feast every day. We saw on social media that your son bought a new aeroplane, those are the people you should tell to fast. Visit Mbare Musika and rural areas, people are sleeping on empty stomachs.”

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