Zim Prison Officer Pleads Not Guilty as Trial Commences for Undermining Mnangagwa

A ZIMBABWEAN prison officer on Thursday 1 November 2018 pleaded not guilty to charges of undermining President Emmerson Mnangagwa through posting some political comments on social media and to some misconduct charges.

John Mahlabera, who is employed as a prison officer by Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) pleaded not guilty to the two charges he is facing as his trial commenced on Thursday 1 November 2018 at Chiredzi Prison, Masvingo province.

According to ZPCS, Mahlabera unlawfully made some political comments on his Twitter account after an MDC-Alliance party rally held at Jerera Growth Point in Zaka, Masvingo province, which was addressed by Nelson Chamisa, the opposition party leader, where he allegedly posted a message, which reads; “Come to Chiredzi my president”.

ZPCS said by posting such a message on Twitter, Mahlabera contravened section 3(1) of the Prisons (Staff) (Discipline) Regulations 1984 for using traitorous or disloyal words regarding the leader of government and had showed loyalty to Chamisa and disloyalty to President Mnangagwa.

But the ZPCS officer, who is represented by Collen Maboke of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, denied uttering any treacherous or disloyal words against President Mnangagwa or government and indicated that the Twitter account, which ZPCS authorities alleged belongs to him is in the name of Shephard Mahlabera.

Mahlabera is also answering to charges of misconduct, where ZPCS authorities alleged that he attended an opposition political party rally ahead of the country’s harmonised elections held in July in contravention of section 3 (46) of Prisons (Staff) (Disciplinary) Regulations 1984 that is being guilty of any other act, conduct, disorder or neglect of duty to the prejudice of good conduct or discipline as read with section (19) (a-g) of Staff General Regulations 1968.

ZPCS authorities alleged that the 36 year-old prison officer unlawfully and intentionally participated in active politics when he attended an MDC Alliance party rally, which was held at Tshovani Stadium in Chiredzi, Masvingo province on 10 June 2018, where he was invited to the podium by Chamisa, who then introduced him to opposition political party supporters.

ZPCS charged that Mahlabera was promised employment by Chamisa, where he would work as a security detail for the opposition political party leader in the event that he emerged the winner of the harmonised elections that were held on 30 July 2018. ZPCS said Mahlabera had no right whatsoever to conduct himself in the manner he did.

Mahlabera’s trial, which was adjourned late Thursday, will continue on Saturday 3 November 2018, where his witnesses are expected to testify before the trial officer only identified as Superintendent Muzhingi. ZPCS Principal Correctional Officer Nyikadzino Machingura is prosecuting on behalf of ZPCS.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

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