Zimbabwe prison authorities have charged an officer with undermining President Emmerson Mnangagwa after he posted on social media comments calling the main opposition leader “my president”, lawyers said on Monday.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), a legal rights group, criticised the move as a “fresh clampdown on dissent” ahead of elections expected in July.
The Prisons and Correctional Services authorities summoned John Mahlabera, 36, an officer at Chiredzi prison in the southern province of Masvingo, to appear before a disciplinary hearing on June 18.
Mahlabera was alleged to have called main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa “my president” after Chamisa addressed a rally in Masvingo province.
Four witnesses are expected to testify against him at the hearing.
The July election will be the first since the ousting of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, whose authoritarian regime routinely suppressed dissent and had also targeted critics on social media.
ZLHR said that since 2010 they had represented nearly 200 people arrested and charged for allegedly “insulting or undermining the authority of the President”.
Mnangagwa, a veteran of the ruling Zanu-PF party, took power after Mugabe was ousted following a brief military takeover in November 2017.
The new president has vowed to hold a fair and free vote in the election, when he will face Chamisa and the Movement of Democratic Change party.
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