A 29-year old man was yesterday fined $100 for insulting Buhera South legislator Joseph Chinotimba on a WhatsApp group chat. Tatenda Benjamin Machingauta (29) used his Econet line 0773 136 840 to send a message which read, “Pfutseki Chinotimba mandebvu aro” (Voetsek Chinotimba, big bushy beard) directed at Cde Chinotimba.
Machingauta pleaded with Chinotimba for forgiveness for the insult.
“I want to apologise to Chinotimba. I did send the insulting message but I had no idea I was sending to him.
“I am not the administrator of that WhatsApp group. I directed the insult at a number bearing the name Joseph Chinotimba but knowing that people don’t use their real names on the group chat, I never thought that it was actually him.”
He pleaded guilty to charges of contravening section 88 (c) of the Postal and Telecommunications Act Chapter 12.05 which prohibits sending of insulting or annoying messages over the phone.
Harare magistrate Mr Vakayi Chikwekwe fined Machingauta $100 or one month in prison.
In passing sentence, Mr Chikwekwe considered that Machingauta was a first offender who showed contrition by pleading guilty.
“But against this background, you insulted an honourable man. Cases of insults through social media are prevalent,” said Mr Chikwekwe.
“However, I can only deal with the facts before the court. The State is reminded that there are no facts indicating that the President was insulted.”
He added that imprisonment would be harsh to the accused.
In aggravation, prosecutor Ms Sharon Mashavira said the insults were politically motivated.
“What is aggravating is that the insults are between a WhatsApp group called Gammatox and zanu-pf,” she said.
“They are putting the names of political leaders in disrepute through the insults. President Mugabe is also being insulted by this WhatsApp group,” she said.
An inquiry was carried out through Econet and it was established that the line 0773 136 840 was registered in Machingauta’s name.