Did you know that making snide, careless or sarcastic comments can land you in trouble in Zimbabwe? Such is the case for 25-year-old American citizen Martha O’Donovan who is currently being detained in Zimbabwe over a tweet. In her tweet, she referred to “a goblin whose wife and stepson bought a Rolls-Royce.” While she did not explicitly state that it was Mugabe’s family that she was referring to, it was assumed that was the case because Mugabe’s stepson, Russell Goreraza, is the only one rumored to have recently purchased two Rolls-Royce. This arrest happened a few weeks after Mugabe made the appointment of a cyber-security minister.
The journalist, who works for Magamba TV, was arrested on November 4th and is facing two charges: attempting to overthrow the government and insulting the President/undermining authority. She is being represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR). O’Donovan’s arrest is one among the many that have occurred over the years in relation to allegedly demeaning the President, but none of the people arrested have been convicted. Martha O’Donovan is among the activists who have been using social media as a tool for protesting Mugabe’s rule, and this arrest is seen as a means authorities are using to intimidate Magamba TV.
After her arrest, O’Donovan was denied bail on the morning of the following day, and she remained in the custody of Harare’s central police station. She is also reported to have continued tweeting and mocking the President. Her lawyer, Rose Hanzi, maintains that her arrest was illegal as there are no reasons cited for it, while Martha terms her arrest “baseless and malicious.” If she is sentenced, she could face up to 20 years in jail time.
All this continues amidst a collapsing economy and a malfunctioning healthcare system. Mugabe, who has been in power for over 35 years, continues to hold his position, dealing swiftly with any resistance.