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Court: Zim criminal law violates people's freedom
October 30, 2013
View this article
on the VOA News website
Court on Wednesday declared that a section of the Criminal
Law (Codification and Reform) Act which prohibits the publication
of falsehoods, contravenes the fundamental right to freedom of expression
as enshrined in Zimbabwe’s constitution.
In a ruling
following a constitutional challenge by the then Independent newspaper
editor, Constantine Chimakure, the court ruled that Section 31(a)
111 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act contravened
Section 20 (1) of the Constitution.
Section 31 of
the Criminal Law Act prohibits the publication or communication
of false statements with the intention or risk of undermining confidence
in the law enforcement agency, Prison Service or Defence Forces
jointly charged with Alpha Media Group Editor-in-Chief Vincent Kahiya
and Zimbabwe Independent publishers after publishing a story that
law enforcement agencies had abducted
human rights activists including Jestina Mukoko in 2008.
In his judgment,
the Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba said the section was draconian
He ordered the
Minister of Justice, Emmerson Mnangangwa, to appear before the court
to show cause why the section should not declared unconstitutional.
In respect of
artist, Owen Maseko, who was arrested and charged with contravening
sections 31 and 33 of the same piece of legislation, the court found
that the section was unconstitutional.
was also ordered to appear before the same court on November 20
to show cause why the legislation should not be struck off the country’s
Maseko was arrested
and charged in March 2010 for staging an exhibition in Bulawayo
depicting the 1980s Matabeleland massacres, carried out by a crack
military unit, the Five Brigade, which was trained by North Koreans.
More than 20,000
people aligned to the Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo are believed to have
been killed by the brigade in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces.
Maseko was accused
of undermining the authority of or insulting the president and offending
people of other races and or religions.
His pieces of
art depicted the Gukurahundi atrocities, which were once described
by Mugabe as a moment of madness.
another case in which a Bulawayo man, Tendai Danga, who was challenging
the constitutionality of the same law, was withdrawn by consent
after defense and state attorney agreed that he should not have
been charged in the first place.
Danga was arrested
in Northend suburb of Bulawayo after he insulted a policeman and
said police should stop dragging the name of the president over
superfluous allegations made in beer halls.
He said by doing
so the police were actually insulting the president.
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