HARARE – Police have arrested activist cleric, Patrick Phillip Mugadza, after he recently and controversially “prophesied” President Robert Mugabe’s death which he claimed would happen before the end of this year.
The well-known “Mugabe-must-go” churchman was arrested yesterday by detectives from the Law and Order department, days after Cabinet minister and Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere warned that the government would not hesitate to act on reckless prophets.
Mugadza first hit the headlines in December 2015 when he mounted a one-man protest against Mugabe in Victoria Falls during Zanu PF’s national conference at the resort, where he held a placard that read: “Mr President, the people are suffering. Proverbs 21:13”.
In April last year, he also chained himself to a pole while holding a cross and Bible in another daring protest action in Harare.
It was confirmed to the Daily News last night that the Kariba-based clergyman had been nabbed while he was in the company of his lawyer Gift Mtisi, while making a routine appearance at the Magistrates’ Courts where he is facing multiple charges relating to his colourful activism.
This time, the Remnant Church pastor is being charged with “criminal insult”, as well as undermining the authority of the president over his controversial prophecy which has caused palpable anger within sections of Zanu PF which is riven with its seemingly unstoppable tribal, factional and succession wars.
The outspoken Mugadza faces six months’ imprisonment or a fine of $200 if he is convicted under Section 33 of the Criminal Law.
In his staggering “prophecy” last week, Mugadza had claimed that he had received a revelation that Mugabe would die in October this year.
However, he had also said that the nonagenarian could escape death by praying, fasting and publicly announcing that he did not wish to die.
“I am not saying I am going to be killing him on October 17, so there is no way anybody can say to me what you have done is wrong. I am not going to be killing anybody, I am only saying what God told me, that he is going to die,” he said then.
Civic society and pro-democracy groups leapt to Mugadza’s defence yesterday, saying his arrest was a ploy by the under fire government to silence dissenting voices in the country, as there was nothing wrong with the cleric’s prediction.
“This (the arrest) just serves to reveal the true morbid and evil nature of Zanu PF. There is nothing seditious about that prediction,” the leader of the Occupy Africa Unity Square movement, Patson Dzamara, said.
“It’s his right to do so. For them to arrest someone over a mere prediction is actually undermining the rights of Zimbabweans,” he added.
Crisis In Zimbabwe Coalition acting director, Memory Kadau, also said Mugadza’s arrest was an infringement on freedom of expression which was guaranteed by the country’s Constitution.
“His arrest is unlawful. The charges infringe on the right to freedom of expression. The Office of the President must be subjected to criticism.
“The president himself has on numerous occasions insulted and called his opponents pigs, horses, dogs, and idiots,” Kadau told the Daily News.
Political analyst and civic leader, Gladys Hlatywayo, said it was “patently” wrong for authorities to arrest Mugadza for expressing his views, as Mugabe, “like all of us”, would die one day.
“. . . Mugabe is mortal and not God. He will surely die one day just like all of us. This business of going after citizens on such petty issues is characteristic of dictatorships.
“At 93, why should anyone be imprisoned for saying that? Has the government run out of issues to look at? Running a country based on fear and victimisation is never a good thing and runs contrary to our values as expressed in the national charter. It is undemocratic,” Hlatywayo said.
What added fuel to Mugadza’s “prophecy” of last week was that it came after Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD) ministries founder, Walter Magaya, had also predicted the death of a prominent, but unnamed politician this year.
Another cleric, Miracle Paul of New Revelation Ministries, had also on New Year’s Eve predicted that four of Africa’s heads of State would die this year.
“Ndanzwa ruzha munyika four muAfrica dzichichema vatungamiriri vadzo asi handina kuzoziva kuti ndedzipi (I have heard people from four African countries mourning their leaders although I could not tell which ones),” he said.
New Revelation Ministries is one of the mega churches operating in the country and was founded by Abel Mutumwa in 1986.
Political analysts and pro democracy groups have previously accused the government of over-reacting and using the insult laws to harass human rights defenders and members of the opposition.
Hundreds of Mugabe’s opponents have been arrested under these laws which criminalise insulting the increasingly frail nonagenarian.
However, so far the law has not resulted in a successful prosecution.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the civic rights body which represents ordinary people in legal matters for free, says since 2010 it has represented more than 150 people who were dragged to court charged with insulting Mugabe.
MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, and former war veterans’ leader, Jabulani Sibanda, are among the high profile personalities who have been caught in the snares of Section 33 of the Criminal Law.
Mwonzora was arrested for allegedly calling Mugabe a “goblin”, during a rally in Nyanga, while Sibanda was hauled before the courts in November 2014 after he accused Mugabe of having allegedly suffered a “bedroom coup.
In October 2010, Zebediah Mpofu, a Harare resident, also found himself victimised under the same section.
The general hand at a private security firm had stated that Mugabe was going to be dead by December 2010 and that he would be replaced by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
In May 2013, Bindura magistrate Tendayi Chifamba acquitted former Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma who had been on trial on charges of undermining the authority of or insulting the president.
Mangoma had been on trial after he was arrested on October 10, 2013 when he allegedly uttered the words; “Chifa Mugabe chifa. Chibva Mugabe chibva,” loosely translated to “Die Mugabe and go now” on May 18, 2012 at an MDC political meeting he addressed at Manhenga Business Centre in Bindura, Mashonaland Central province.
In January 2014, suspended Attorney General Johannes Tomana also conceded that the facts forming criminal charges against Bulawayo-based artist Owen Maseko, who was accused of insulting Mugabe, did not constitute an offence.