MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa has promised to employ in his security department a Chiredzi prison officer who was charged and is set to appear before an internal tribunal for allegedly praising him on Twitter.
John Mahlabera is set to appear before the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service internal disciplinary hearing today for contravening section 3 (1) of the Prisons (Staff) Discipline Regulations 1984 of “using traitorous or disloyal words regarding the President or the government” or alternatively section 3 (46) of “being guilty of any other act, conduct, disorder or neglect of duty to the prejudice of good conduct or discipline”.
This was after he allegedly heaped praises on Chamisa, allegedly describing him as “my president”
According to the charge sheet, on April 9 near Chiredzi Prison, Mahlabera “unlawfully” made political comments on his microblogging Twitter handle after an MDC-T rally held at Jerera Growth Point in Zaka, which was addressed by party president Nelson Chamisa.
Mahlabera, according to the charge sheet, tweeted: “Come to Chiredzi my President”, thus “showing loyalty to the opposition party president, while exhibiting disloyalty and disgraceful contact (sic) to the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Head of State and Government and the Commander-in-chief-of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces or his office”.
But addressing a capacity crowd at Tshovani Stadium at the last leg of his rallies on Sunday, Chamisa called Mahlabera to the podium and assured him that he will get back his job once the MDC-T gets into power and maybe even get a promotion.
“I hear there is a prison officer who got in trouble for liking me, I looked for him and could not find him, if he is here, he should come here as he will get back his job starting on 1t, when we assume power, even with a promotion.
“We like people like these who want good things for the country. From today you will be working closely with us, if you want your job back, you will get it, if you want to be part of my security, I will rope you in,” Chamisa said amid applause from the crowd.
However, Mahlabera’s lawyer, Collins Maboke, of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), said the allegations infringed on his client’s freedom of expression.
“First of all, they do not have evidence to the effect that the Twitter account belonged to my client. Secondly, how did they come to the conclusion that he was referring to the president of the MDC-T, Nelson Chamisa? What if he was referring to another president of an association or President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Again, the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression,” he said.
Mahlabera joins a long list of 200 other Zimbabweans, according to the ZLHR, who have been arrested and prosecuted in courts by the previous administration of ex-president Robert Mugabe for undermining the authority of and insulting the President.