The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) has dismissed from employment, John Mahlabera, a prison officer, after convicting him for undermining President Emmerson Mnangagwa and posting a Tweet viewed by his superiors as disloyal to the ruling ZANU PF party leader.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) reported that Mahlabera was convicted on Monday 5 November 2018 and dismissed from employment by the trial officer only identified as Superintendent Muzhingi.
When trial commenced on Thursday 1 November 2018 at Chiredzi Prison, Masvingo province, Mahlabera pleaded not guilty to charges of undermining President Mnangagwa through posting some political comments on social media and to some misconduct charges.
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 was 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 was also convicted for misconduct, where ZPCS authorities alleged that he attended an opposition political party rally ahead of the country’s harmonised elections held in July 2018 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 allegedly did.