THE Constitutional Court (ConCourt) this week struck off criminal defamation from the country’s statute books after ruling that the obnoxious law was unconstitutional.
The ruling followed an application by the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) and application and four others that sought to have the law removed from the country’s law books.
A ConCourt full bench headed by Chief Justice, Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, granted the application but indicated that it will give full reasons for its ruling later.
In this matter, MISA-Zimbabwe was the first applicant while journalists Nqaba Matshazi, Sydney Saize and Godwin Mangudya, were the second, third and fourth respective applicants in the matter. The fifth applicant is Roger Stringer, an independent publishing consultant.
MISA-Zimbabwe successfully argued that Section 96 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) was unconstitutional as it did not comply with Sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution and should be struck off.
Sections 61 and 62 protect the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the media and access to information.
The Attorney-General Prince Machaya and the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs represented by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who were the respondents in the matter, were arguing for the retention of criminal defamation.
Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers) and the editor of the Herald, Caesar Zvayi, had a parallel case in the same ConCourt, in which they were also sought to have the law declared unconstitutional
In 2014, the ConCourt ruled that defamation was not a criminal offence.
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