via Constitutional Court case deferred to next year | The Herald November 21, 2013 by Daniel Nemukuyu
The Constitutional Court has deferred to next year the case in which Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa is contesting the court’s observation that sections of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act that criminalised the undermining of the authority of the President and communicating falsehoods were in violation of the Constitution.
This came after lawyers representing Zimbabwe Independent journalists — Constantine Chimakure and Vincent Kahiya — and artist Owen Maseko indicated that they needed time to study the heads of argument filed by Minister Mnangagwa and to prepare written responses.
The 2013 legal year ends next week and Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku advised the parties to liaise with the Chief Registrar Mr Walter Chikwana for the earliest convenient court date in the first legal term in 2014.
Last month the highest court observed that Section 31 (a) (iii) which criminalises publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State and Section 33 (a) (ii) which criminalises undermining the authority of the President had the effect of breaching people’s rights and invited the Justice Minister to justify the existence of the laws by today (Wednesday) if he so wished.
Chief Law Officer Chris Mutangadura represented the minister while Advocate Zvikomborero Chadambuka and Mr Tawanda Zhuwarara acted for Maseko.
Artherstone and Cook law firm represented the journalists.
The ruling by the court followed an appeal by Chimakure and Kahiya on one hand and artist Owen Maseko, all of whom had been charged under the Criminal Code.
Chimakure and Kahiya were charged under Section 31 for allegedly publishing or communicating false statement prejudicial to the State, while Maseko was charged under Section 33 for allegedly undermining the authority of the President through his paintings.
The two journalists were charged after they published a story titled “Activists’ abductors named,” where in the story senior police officials
were identified as having abducted MDC-T activists and Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko in 2009.
Maseko was arrested for making paintings reminiscent of the dissident menace that afflicted the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces soon after independence.
In the heads of argument filed on Tuesday, Minister Mnangagwa argued that the court erred in ruling in favour of the journalists and the artist.
He argued that the court failed to properly assess the proportionality of Section 31 of the Code, which criminalised publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State.
On the case of undermining the authority of the President, Minister Mnangagwa argued that it was necessary to protect the reputation of the President.