By Professor Matodzi
Harare, October 30, 2013 – Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court (ConCourt) on Wednesday summoned Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to appear before the Supreme to defend the constitutionality of some provisions of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act after the law was declared unconstitutional.
The ConCourt granted the order after suspended and former Zimbabwe Independent journalist Constantine Chimakure and the newspaper’s former editor Vincent Kahiya, who now serves as Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) Group Editor-In-Chief petitioned the highest court challenging the constitutionality of some provisions of the law under which the State had relied upon in prosecuting the two journalists.
Chimakure and Kahiya were arrested in 2009 and charged with publishing false statements to the effect that some law enforcement agents abducted some political and human rights campaigners during in late 2008. The Zimbabwe Independent report contained the names of police officers and state security agents who were implicated in the abductions of human rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko and other activists.
In his 81-page judgment, Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba ruled that Mnangagwa should appear if he so wishes before the Supreme Court on 20 November to show cause why Section 31 (a) (iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act should not be declared to be in contravention of Section 20 (1) of the Constitution.
The ConCourt ruled that Section 31 (a) (iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act is unconstitutional as it contravenes the declaration of the fundamental right to freedom of expression under Section 20 (1) of the Constitution.
“It has not been shown that Section 31 (a) (iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act is not in contravention of Section 20 of the Constitution,” reads part of the judgment.
The landmark judgment which will draw celebrations from journalists operating in Zimbabwe’s tough media environment comes at a time when Chimakure is serving a suspension from employment following the publication in August of two stories which the AMH, the publishers of NewsDay which Chimakure edited, said did not conform to set journalistic ethical standards. A hearing has already been conducted where Chimakure defended himself against the allegations.