Posted on December 30, 2004

Man Convicted for Mugabe Insult

BBC News, Dec. 29

A Zimbabwe businessman who said President Robert Mugabe had “printed useless money” has been convicted of denigrating the president.

Jason Gambitzs told his staff he could not give them a Christmas party or bonuses because of the president’s policies, state-run media report.

Mr Gambitzs pleaded guilty to contravening the two-year-old law which outlaws insulting the president.

The 72-year-old faces up to a year in jail when sentenced.

Economic crisis

“Your Mugabe is chasing away tourists who are supposed to bring in money,” Mr Gambitzs allegedly told his workers on 9 December, the Herald newspaper reports.

“So where do you think I will get the cash from? . . . Why can’t we remove him from power?” he reportedly asked.

Mr Gambitzs is the third Zimbabwean in two months to be charged under the law.

One was arrested for labelling Mr Mugabe a dictator who ruled by the sword and another was jailed for calling him thick-headed.

Mr Mugabe has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980.

The country is suffering a major economic crisis, with inflation now officially standing at 149% and unemployment at about 80%.

Millions of once self-reliant people are now surviving on food aid, blamed by critics on the government’s land reform programme, which seized commercial farms from white farmers for redistribution to black Zimbabweans.

Mr Mugabe said the seizures were necessary to redress the balance of ownership.