Sunday Mail trio seeks acquittal

Source: Sunday Mail trio seeks acquittal | The Herald July 6, 2016

Fungai Lupande Court Reporter
SUNDAY Mail Editor Mabasa Sasa, investigations editor Brian Chitemba and reporter Tinashe Farawo – accused of publishing a false story implicating a top police officer in cyanide poisoning of elephants – have sought acquittal, citing flawed testimony against them and lack of tangible evidence for a conviction.

Sasa, Chitemba and Farawo are accused of communicating or publishing false statements after alleging that an assistant commissioner of police was involved in a poaching syndicate.

In their application for discharge at the close of the State’s case, defence counsel Advocate Fadzayi Mahere said the prosecution had failed to prove its case.

“State witnesses lacked credibility and one of the witnesses, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s regional manager, Tawanda Gotosa, lied under oath,” she said.

“His evidence is manifestly unreliable. ZimParks public relations manager Caroline Washaya-Moyo admitted under cross-examination that she had no knowledge of who was involved in poaching and (was) not able to say whether the article was true or false,” said Ms Mahere.

“Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, the investigating officer Oscar Mugomeri and Gotosa, were all unable to dispute that a syndicate was behind the cyanide poisoning and poaching of elephants in Hwange,” she said.

Adv Mahere added that no evidence was adduced by the State to prove that the article affected Zimbabwe’s economy.

“Snr Asst Comm Charamba and Mugomeri conceded that they were not economic experts and had no data to support that the story affected the economy,” she said. “The pair made reference to a European Union ban but no evidence was led as to what the ban related to or when and why it was imposed.

“Mugomeri remained affixed with the accused’s source of information. However, constitutionally, they (the accused) have no obligation to disclose their source,” she said.

“Nowhere did the accused disclose who their source of information was, without that information the State cannot say the contents of the article were false.”

Adv Mahere added that Farawo took extra steps of contacting ZimParks and the police to publish their side of the story.

“The extra steps are not consistent with someone who wants to publish a false story. The accused move for an order that they be found not guilty of the offence.”

Prosecutor Ms Francesca Mukumbiri’s response was that they were not ready, and Harare magistrate Mr Tendai Mahwe will make a ruling tomorrow.

Sasa, Chitemba and Farawo were arrested following publication of an article on November 1, 2015 implicating a police officer, National Parks rangers and Asians in poaching of elephants in Hwange.

It is alleged that the trio knew that no assistant commissioner of the police was being investigated for involvement in the poaching of the elephants, nor had the Zimbabwe Republic Police made any arrest in connection with the crime.

The State said the article negatively impacted on Zimbabwe’s economy.