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court declares MIC defunct
June 05, 2009
High court judge, Justice
Bharat Patel on 5 June 2009 granted the application by four freelance
journalists, Stanley Gama, Stanley Kwenda, Jealous Mawarire and
Valentine Maponga challenging the legal status of the Media and
Information Commission (MIC).
The four journalists
were represented by prominent media lawyer Selby Hwacha, who contended
that the MIC had been disbanded by operation of the law after the
promulgation of Act No. 20 on 11 January 2008 which amended Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) creating
the Zimbabwe Media Commission to replace MIC. The ZMC was later
consolidated by constitutional Amendment
19 which made it a constitutional body.
Hwacha further argued
that the effect of Act No. 20 was to remove the obligation compelling
journalists to be accredited, such that they could actually practice
journalism without accreditation although they would not be able
to enjoy journalistic privileges as set out in section 79 of AIPPA.
He further made submissions that the COMESA Summit was a regional
and not a national event which was not covered by the requirement
However, Virginia Mabhiza
representing the Minister of Information and Publicity Webster Shamu,
the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry George Charamba and the
Prime Minster Morgan Tsvangirai raised a preliminary objection that
the prime minister had been improperly joined to the proceedings
as he had no direct or substantive interest in the matter, a point
which Hwacha disputed and the judge sustained his objection noting
that the prime minister had a substantive interest given his official
role as the head of government in charge of implementing public
The counsel for the respondents
made submission in defence of the continued operation of the MIC
on the basis of necessity, citing the case of Madzimbamuto V Ladnerburke
as a legal precedent to that effect. However the judge refused this
argument noting that this had pertained to the administration of
an entire nation. On the contrary, the present case related to a
small administrative gap in the law which could not warrant such
In her attempt to strengthen
her case, Mabhiza argued the journalists had already been accredited
as of late February 2009, hence there was no need for them to seek
court intervention since they were entitled to attend the COMESA
summit. However, the judge, argued the 'accreditation'
was invalid since the MIC had been rendered defunct by the 11 January
2008 amendments to AIPPA.
Similar arguments were
also echoed by Mercy Chizodza who was representing the third respondent
Dr. Tafataona Mahoso.
Upon hearing submissions
from both parties the judge proposed that the parties try and reach
a judgement by consent. However the process suffered a still birth
after the parties failed to agree on the settlement terms. Justice
Patel proceeded by making a ruling on the merits of submissions.
In his final ruling Patel
held that the applicants be granted interim relief sought and ordered
that Charamba and Shamu make a retraction of the statements published
on 22, 23 and 24 May relating to matters of accreditation of journalists
and media houses by the MIC and that the applicants be allowed to
cover the COMESA Summit without any need to produce accreditation
Patel further ruled that
the MIC or any persons purporting to act on its behalf were interdicted
from carrying out any duties related to accreditation or any issues
regarding to the practice of journalism. As a final point he also
stated that the order would stand notwithstanding the noting of
the MISA-Zimbabwe fact
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