Zimbabwe court acquits man accused of ‘insulting’ cops

Zimbabwe's riot police take position in the streets of Harare central district as Zimbabwe’s main opposition parties demonstrate in support of free and fair elections to be monitored by international bodies on March 22, 2017 in Harare, Zimbabwe. A coalition of opposition political parties in Zimbabwe demanded the disbanding of the state-appointed electoral commission accusing the poll body of hindering free and fair elections. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA

HARARE – A Zimbabwean court acquitted a Chiredzi man, who had been on trial for “insulting” two police officers by accusing them of banking money they extorted from people.

On Wednesday, Chiredzi magistrate, Tafadzwa Mhlanga, found Zephania Virimai, 32, of Tshovani, a high-density area in the sugarcane planting town about 440km south-east of the capital, not guilty of the crime.

He ruled the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, saying the evidence of the state witnesses, who testified during the trial, was inconsistent.

Virimai was arrested on August 1, and charged with undermining police authority. He had been on trial since September 14.

He was represented by Blessing Nyamaropa of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights had pleaded not guilty at the beginning of the trial.

Virimai allegedly accused policemen Lazarus Nyahonzo and Slyna Nyamaropa of extorting money from the public. He allegedly accused them of “banking” their ill-gotten earnings, comments the police said were insulting.

Prosecutors claimed that Virimai insulted the policemen who were in a queue at a bank. He allegedly said, “Those thieves should move away from there,” in an apparent reference to them.

Virimai also allegedly said they were banking money extorted through corruption.

The prosecution argued that Virimai’s conduct risked engendering feelings of hostility towards police officers or exposing them to contempt, ridicule or low esteem.