Another Zimbabwean has fallen victim to the country’s ‘insult laws’ after being arrested for Photoshopping an image of Robert Mugabe.
Professional graphic designer Ronald Chikambure appeared in court on Tuesday charged with ‘undermining the office of the President’. The charges are linked to a picture he edited, using the Photoshop programme, where his own face was edited onto the body of Robert Mugabe.
The state prosecutor told the court this week that police were given a tip-off that Chikambure had the picture on the wall of his office. The prosecutor said that “the picture had been edited to give a false impression to people who entered Chikambure’s office that it was him in the picture, and not the President.”
Police did not find the picture when they searched Chikambure’s offices, but they did find a copy on his laptop. Chikambure has pleaded not guilty to any crime.
Activist Phillip Pasirayi from the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) told SW Radio Africa that this incident shows that “we are still living in a dictatorship.”
“This strategy of muzzling people, it is a strategy of ZANU PF to silence critics, to silence civil society, to silence the media, to silence anyone,” Pasirayi said.
He added that repeated criminal cases using ‘insult laws’ were a sign of the party’s “paranoia.” He also emphasised that making a joke, drawing a caricature or changing a picture for personal use was not an offence.
“In an advanced democracy it is normal to criticise political leaders and government leaders in such a fashion. And the government should be drawing lessons from what the criticisms are about,” Pasirayi said.
He urged the Zim government to “reflect on that which they are insulted by and address the concerns without restoring to insult laws to prosecute people.”