Union Leader Obert Masaraure Convicted for Social Media Post

Obert Masaraure, leader of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ). Photo by Brezh Malaba.
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HARARE,– Prominent trade union leader and pro-democracy activist Obert Masaraure has been convicted for posting a message on his X handle (formerly Twitter) demanding the release of a trade union colleague.

On Wednesday, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union (ARTUZ) president was found guilty of defeating or obstructing the course of justice or alternatively inciting public violence, under Section 184(1)(c) of the Criminal Code.

Masaraure was arrested for the offence on July 8, 2022, and has been in and out of court since then. The charges stemmed from a message he posted on the social media platform, demanding the release of fellow activist Robson Chere.

Chere had been arrested in connection with the mysterious death of ARTUZ member Roy Issa, who died after falling from the seventh floor of a Harare hotel. An inquest ruled out foul play, but police controversially reopened the case and filed murder charges against Masaraure and Chere.

Prosecutors proved that Masaraure authored a statement published on X and the ARTUZ website, aimed at prejudicing his and Chere’s pending trial while inciting teachers’ union members and the public to commit violence.

Following the trial, he was convicted by Harare magistrate Feresi Chakanyuka.

The conviction has sparked condemnation from ARTUZ, which describes it as a travesty of justice.

“This verdict is seen by many as a troubling case and travesty of justice, as Masaraure is a vibrant trade union leader who has advocated for the rights and welfare of rural teachers in Zimbabwe. As ARTUZ, we remain unshaken and will continue the fight against all the injustices and criminalisation of labour acts,” read parts of a statement from the union.

Masaraure has been remanded in custody and is scheduled for sentencing on Thursday morning at the Harare Magistrates Court.