Zimbabwe official charged with insulting president over virus

HARARE - An opposition municipal official has been charged with insulting Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa over for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a lawyers' association said.

Chrispen Rambu, a local councillor in the eastern town of Chipinge and a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was called in by the police, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said in a statement late Friday. 

He was then charged with insulting Mnangagwa and undermining his authority, it said.

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The ZLHR said the police believe Rambu sent a WhatsApp message to a local group which unfavourably compared Mnangagwa with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in the handling of the pandemic.

"Ramaphosa just announced a 500 billion (rand, $26 billion) stimulus package. Seeing him addressing and comparing him with ED you won't doubt that we are having a fool for a head of state," the message said, as cited in the ZLHR statement.

The initials ED refer to the president's full name, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.

READ: Zimbabweans call for lifting of lockdown

Zimbabwe's economy has been on its knees for years and many fear its medical system will not be able to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

So far the authorities have reported just 29 coronavirus cases and four deaths.

The UN has warned that Zimbabwe suffers from serious shortages of basics, including medicines, while half of the 15 million population is threatened by famine.


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