‘Mugabe’s foul language demeans his office

CONSTITUTIONAL law expert Alex Magaisa has accused President Robert Mugabe of demeaning his office by using undignified language to scold his political foes knowing fully well that they cannot answer back.

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Speaking to NewsDay from his United Kingdom base yesterday, Magaisa said: “If you look across the world, there is a manner which is dignified and respectful, by which holders of high office are expected to conduct themselves. Presidents do not go around using indecorous language against opponents.”

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He added: “They might differ in their opinions, but they do not go around calling each other names and scolding each other in personal terms. They know that such conduct undermines their own image and makes them look petty and vindictive. Therefore, the first point is that such conduct has detrimental effects on the image of the President and the way others look at him.”

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Magaisa’s remarks came in the wake of Mugabe’s recent vitriolic attacks on former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa, whom he described “as deranged, insane and a stray braying ass that cannot be corrected”.

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Mutasa was last month relieved of both his government and party positions after he was linked to an alleged plot to unseat Mugabe in connivance with ousted former Vice-President Joice Mujuru and several other Zanu PF officials.

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Mutasa later courted Mugabe’s anger when he released a damning statement denouncing the party’s congress held in December and calling for nullification of its resolutions, claiming the indaba was held unconstitutionally.

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Magaisa said it was unfair for Mugabe to insult others and then hide behind an undemocratic law.

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“It is obviously unfair that while the President can take liberties and castigate and insult others, he himself is shielded by the laws that make it criminal to insult the President,” he said.

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“I would have thought the reason for shielding the President from insults is to protect the dignity of his office, but when the President himself is the author of the insults, surely, this also has a negative impact on the dignity of his office. Insults issued by the President are just as bad, if not worse, than insults issued against the President. You cannot criminalise one and say the other is legal and acceptable.”

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He added: “The best solution would be to scrap the clearly undemocratic laws that essentially criminalise criticism of the President and protect free speech, which includes the freedom to insult. It makes no sense and it is patently unfair, to criminalise insults against the President, while condoning insults by the President.”

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Besides Mutasa, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo have also been on the receiving end of Mugabe’s insulting language.

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MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu yesterday said his party had long resolved to ignore Mugabe’s foul language.

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“As the MDC, we are not going to pay much attention to an old man who takes the uttering of hate language as a hobby. We feel sorry for him. He needs help. What do you expect from a man who has absolute contempt for his country’s Constitution?” Gutu asked.

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Gumbo urged Mugabe to be tolerant and allow for divergent views. – NewsDay