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Law (Codification and Reform) Act
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Weekly Media Update 2006-27
Monday July 3rd 2006 - Sunday July 9th 2006
THE media’s growing reluctance or inability to inform the public
adequately on important national issues was illustrated by their
failure to publicize details of the Criminal
Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which came into effect on
July 2. The law, which was passed by Parliament in 2004 and gazetted
on June 16th this year, creates about 15 new crimes,
abolishes others and redefines other offences such as sodomy and
But despite the
Act’s far reaching effects on the conduct of the citizenry and the
delivery of justice in the country, the media – except for the Sunday
News (2/7) – were conspicuous by their silence.
As a result, only
the Sunday News’ readers had the privilege of learning about
the new law. The paper cited university law professor, Geoff Feltoe,
saying the law would affect Zimbabweans’ civil liberties. For example,
the paper revealed that sodomy had been broadened to include "not
only acts of anal sexual intercourse, but also… any act involving
physical contact between males that would be regarded by a reasonable
person as an indecent act". As such, it noted, "a
seemingly intimate embrace or hug between two men would presumably
be construed as a crime".
Apart from highlighting
such changes, the paper exposed the confusion the Act was likely
to create in the country’s judicial system. It quoted members of
the judiciary and police expressing ignorance on the criminal law
reforms. One unnamed lawyer told the paper that members of the judiciary
were "caught unawares" by the new law and
called on the authorities to conduct awareness campaigns "as
a matter of urgency to avoid situations where suspects are wrongly
charged and prosecuted".
An unnamed "senior
detective" agreed, revealing that he was "hearing
that (the Act) for the first time" as the police had
"not been advised of such fundamental changes in the
law". Said the police officer: "We will
have a serious problem in laying appropriate charges because it
would appear we are not aware of this development from constables
on the ground who are responsible for receiving reports at stations
right up to senior officers".
paper (9/2) quoted Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa denying such
claims, saying he was "surprised" that lawyers,
the police and prosecutors were unaware of the Act because they
had "two years to familiarise themselves with the legal
reforms". He did not clarify whether government had
conducted public awareness campaigns on the matter.
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