Source: NewsDay journalists finally freed – NewsDay Zimbabwe June 8, 2017
NewsDay journalists, Deputy Editor Nqaba Matshazi and senior reporter, Xolisani Ncube yesterday had every reason to smile after the State withdrew criminal charges, which have been hanging over their heads for the past 18 months.
BY CHARLES LAITON
Matshazi and Ncube, together with Alpha Media Holdings representative, Sifikile Thabete, were being charged for contravening section 31(1)(ii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly publishing falsehoods.
The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office chickened out on defending the draconian law at the Constitutional Court and opted to withdraw the criminal charges against the scribes instead.
The scribes were in January last year arrested for publishing a story which revealed that Central Intelligence Organisation operatives were paid their December 2015 salaries and bonuses while the rest of the government workers went for the festive season holiday without their wages nor bonuses.
Following their appearance at the magistrates’ court, the journalists were released on bail, and later filed a constitutional challenge against the law under which they had been charged by the State.
The case was then set down for hearing at the Constitutional Court yesterday, but when the full bench was ready to entertain the matter, NewsDay lawyers, Taona Nyamakura and Mzo Mbuyisa of Mtetwa and Nyambirai Legal Practitioners, submitted that the State had decided not to contest the application, but chose to withdraw the charges against the scribes.
“This matter was postponed on the last hearing for the respondents (PG and Attorney-General (AG)) to conduct self-introspection as to whether there is an offence,” Nyamakura said.
“We discussed with the first respondent (PG) and agreed that the facts do not constitute an offence and that an administrative decision has been taken to withdraw the matter at the next remand date.”
His averments were confirmed by the PG and AG representatives, Editor Mavuto and Vernanda Munyoro, respectively, who told the full bench that the administrative withdrawal of the criminal charges against the journalists would be done at the magistrates’ court on July 18 this year.
“The matter is struck off the roll with no order as to costs for the reasons that the State has decided to withdraw criminal charges against the applicants (Matshazi and Ncube),” Chief Justice Luke Malaba said.
The two had been on remand since January 2016 and spent the whole of last year without their passports after the State had taken them as part of their bail conditions.