HARARE – Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ally, Energy Mutodi, will spend the Heroes and Defence Forces holidays in remand prison after a Harare provincial magistrate yesterday denied him bail.
Mutodi, who is facing charges of undermining the authority of the president and causing disaffection among members of the defence forces, was remanded in custody to August 25 and advised to apply for bail at the High Court.
In his ruling, Harare magistrate Elisha Singano, said while the law was clear that there must be compelling reasons for an accused to be denied bail, its provisions did not apply to Mutodi because he was inciting violence through his hate speech in his social media posts.
He said although the supreme law of the land provides for freedom of conscience, Mutodi’s activism must not incite violence and put the nation under security threat.
“The accused (Mutodi)’a posts were loaded with threats of causing instability in the country. Due to the severity of Mutodi’s charge, there is a strong likelihood of a stiff penalty and the accused fleeing the jurisdiction of the courts,” Singano said.
“Those who incite the public with hate speech are not good candidates for bail and, as such, the court concurs with the State that Mutodi should be denied bail,” he added.
Mutodi’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, had argued that there were similar cases where accused persons have been granted bail hence her client needed not to be an exception.
She said there was no justifiable reason why her client was being refused his freedom as the Constitution states that he is entitled to it.
“Section 50 (d) of the Constitution states that any person who is arrested must be released unconditionally or on reasonable conditions unless there are compelling reasons to justify their continued detention. His posts are justified as he is also a political commentator,” argued the human rights lawyer.
Mutodi was arrested after he wrote on his social networking wall, Facebook, that Zimbabwe risked a coup if the thorny succession issue was not resolved amicably, adding that President Robert Mugabe should consult the army to avert chaos.
“While a military takeover may be far-fetched in Zimbabwe, it is important for . . . Mugabe to be careful in naming his successor. Any suspicion of unfairness or discrimination on account of tribalism or factionalism may backfire,” he wrote.
“There are key stakeholders that need to be consulted, among them the military and the whole security establishment called the Joint Operations Command that is chaired by vice president Mnangagwa,” he went on.
On Friday, Mutodi’s investigating officer, Josphat Chitambira, said the Zanu PF member’s Facebook posts caused disaffection among defence forces as defined in Section 30 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act chapter 9.23 and also “undermined the authority of or insulting the president as defined in section 33(2)(a)(i) of the same law.
“Investigations carried out so far have established that there is a concerted effort by an organised syndicate of high-powered people, working in cahoots with accused whom we are still working to establish.
“Police are still working with digital forensic analysts to recover additional material from accused’s Facebook account with a view of presenting additional charges,” said Chitambira.
Not happy with Chitambira’s submissions, Mtetwa had argued that the investigating officer should have compiled completed his probe before rushing to court to avoid violating her client’s rights.
“It’s politicking by the police. There is no legal basis for anything that you have said other than politics. Why are you making reference to high-powered people in your affidavit if you are not a politician? You are trying to rope in the court in your unlawful expedition in violation of the accused person’s rights,” argued Mtetwa.
“A reasonable, seasoned and professional investigating officer would have conducted investigations prior to coming to court. You do not even know the period from which you are seeking additional information. If the accused person opened his Facebook page in 2010 that would mean seven years of posts you have to sift through and if you failed to deal with one post in 24 hours what more seven years of posts,” the human rights lawyer, further argued.