Zimbabwe MP's Grace Mugabe insult charge dismissed

Zimbabwe's First Lady Grace Mugabe, gestures during a Zanu-PF party meeting in Mutare, in this December 17, 2010 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Grace Mugabe is seen as a potential successor to her husband

A court in Zimbabwe has thrown out a "criminal insult" charge brought against an MP accused of calling first lady Grace Mugabe a "fool".

Justice Wadyajena of the ruling Zanu-PF party will now be tried on the lesser charge of "disorderly conduct".

The case is seen as part of party wrangling over who should succeed 91-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

Two camps have emerged - one backing Mrs Mugabe, 50, and the other Deputy President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 69.

Mr Wadyajena is reported to be loyal to Mr Mnangagwa.

He denied the charge, and is out on bail of $800 (£500).

Mr Wadyajena was quoted in court papers as having told a Zanu-PF member in Mrs Mugabe's camp, Jimayi Muduvuri, that "you are a fool, as well as that 'mother' of yours".

The first lady is referred to as "amai", meaning mother, by supporters of Zanu-PF.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Robert Mugabe has ruled since independence in 1980

The incident is alleged to have happened at last month's Zanu-PF conference in the resort town of Victoria Falls, where Mr Mugabe warned against factionalism in the party.

The BBC's Brian Hungwe in Zimbabwe says it is not surprising that a magistrate's court in Victoria Falls threw out the "criminal insult" charge as the constitutional court scrapped that law last year.

The "disorderly conduct" charge that Mr Wadyajena now faces carries a maximum prison sentence of six months or a $200 fine, in contrast to the one-year sentence or $300 fine under the previous charge.

The first lady took over the ruling party's women's league in 2014 after spearheading the expulsion of former Vice-President Joice Mujuru and her supporters from Zanu-PF.

Mr Mnangagwa is a veteran of the independence struggle, and served as President Mugabe's spymaster in the 1980s.

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