THE defence counsel representing the leader of the smaller faction of the MDC, Arthur Mutambara, the Standard newspaper publishers, and the editor of the paper, Davison Maruziva
, who are facing charges of publishing an article considered prejudicial to the state and contemptuous of the judiciary, yesterday asked the court to produce a written complaint from High Court Judge Justice Tendai Uchena to validate the claim.
Charges against the accused who are facing allegations of publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state, arose after the publication of an opinion piece in which Mutambara was critical of the judiciary after a High Court ruling in April on the delayed release of the March 29 presidential election results.
Mutambara’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said the state should be able to provide a complaint from Justice Uchena in order to sustain the contempt of court charges.
In a letter submitted to the court, the Master of High Court Charles Nyatanga revealed that he made a statement in response to Mutambara’s article after a request by the police.
“Further reference is made to a conversation this morning between the Hon Judge President Justice R Makarau and the Commissioner-General of the Police Cde A Chihuri where it was agreed that a statement from me on behalf of the judiciary would suffice,” he said.
In the letter Nyatanga said the article was “contemptuous of the judiciary”.
Prosecutor Tawanda Zvekare said the state would seek to obtain a written complaint from Justice Uchena.
The state submitted to the court a statement by Senior Assistant Commissioner and commander of the harmonised elections and the presidential run-off, Faustino Mazango, in which he said Mutambara’s article was based on false information.
He said: “In his (Mutambara) article he falsely presented information that there were police deployments in major cities to intimidate ordinary citizens. He went on to insult the law enforcement agencies as imbecilic and cynical military junta running the affairs of the country.”
“It is my belief and conviction that the country was not at any one time in the hands of the military as the country was being administered according to the constitution of Zimbabwe and was being administered civilly,” Mazango said.
Zimbabwe National Army Major General Nicholas Dube in his statement told the state that Mutambara had lied in his article about the army’s presence in major cities and rural areas during election time
“In the article it was stated that there was heavy army presence in major cities intimidating ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe and as far as the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is concerned, there has never been deployment of its members either in town or rural areas for the purpose of perpetrating violence.”
Dube said Mutambara, Maruziva and the Standard should not have authored, edited and published false information which was likely to undermine public confidence in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
The Media and Information Commission’s principal research and investigations and monitoring officer Academy Chinhamora in his statement said the editor has an obligation to seek and obtain legal advice on any content which might breach the law before publishing an article.
“The editor should have also noticed that Arthur Mutambara’s piece attacked a judgement of the High Court. By so publishing the piece, the publisher is in agreement with the supplied information so had a common intention with the author and the editor,”Chinhamora told the court.
The accused were remanded out of custody to August 29 by Harare Magistrate, Morgen Nemadire.
By Lucia Makamure