Authorities in Zimbabwe arrested an opposition lawmaker for “undermining the authority” of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, successor to dictator Robert Mugabe, after he allegedly called Mnangagwa a “dog,” local sources reported Tuesday.
Joel Gabhuza, a Member of Parliament for Binga South and a national executive member of the opposition party MDC Alliance, reportedly the remarks made at a funeral last month, where he also criticized local residents who voted for Mnangagwa and his party Zanu-PF.
Gabhuza reportedly went on to blast the government for the continued shortages of fuel and medicine which is forcing Zimbabwean’s to cross the border into Zambia to stock up on supplies.
“You people are disabled; you have chosen a dog who cannot manage to rule the country,” he said. “There is no fuel, medication and I had to go to Zambia to buy fuel which we have used at this funeral. I have said so and if there is anyone who is angered about this I don’t care.”
According to local media, an 89-year-old villager offended by the remarks walked around 100 kilometers (62 miles) to Binga Police Station to report his comments six days after the event had ended. Appearing before local magistrates, Gabhuza was not formally charged with a crime, and was later remanded out of custody to December 13 on $200 bail.
“On October 23 at 11 am the accused was at the burial of John Bwansula Mumpande where the informant and other members of the community were in Manzyasiya village,” prosecutor Jamesina Makanza said in a statement. “While at the grave site, the accused was invited to speak in his speech he undermined the authority of the President.”
Gabbuza is the latest in a string of individuals arrested under the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act that criminalizes “undermining of the authority of the President,” including American journalist Martha O’Donovan, detained for insulting former dictator Robert Mugabe on Twitter. Such cases were extremely common during Mugabe’s 37-year presidency, which led one of the world’s most poorly managed and repressive left-wing regimes.
Since taking office, Mnangagwa has promised to lead a “new democracy” in Zimbabwe, although he has so far provided little sign of reforming the country or its ending most egregious human rights abuses. After leading a transitional government through till August, Mnangagwa held a general election in August where he was declared the winner, although the opposition has accused him of rigging the process through voter fraud.