Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda and eight accused councillors who were arrested on Tuesday appeared before a Harare Magistrate and were remanded out of custody to Wednesday (21.04.2010).
Masunda and his team, which investigated the alleged scandalous land acquisitions by businessman Phillip Chiyangwa and other high-profile politicians were being charged with criminal defamation.
The nine accused were alleged to have leaked a 54-page damning report on land sales in and around Harare to the media to allegedly tarnish the image of the complainant, Chiyangwa.
All the accused, through their defence lawyers led by Advocate Happias Zhou denied any wrong doing.
Another defence lawyer Aleck Muchadehama said that his clients investigated how the complainant acquired land and forwarded their report to police for investigations. They did not forward the report to the media.
The mayor said that the court was “barking up the wrong tree” as the councillors did not publish the story hence police were supposed to question the authors of the story.
The story, which the state is using as exhibit appeared in The Standard and The Sunday Times of 27 March 2010.
State prosecutor Chris Mutangadura, however, argued that the council probe team leaked the document to journalists who wrote articles said to have tarnished the image of Chiyangwa and his company Kilmar Investments.
The defence team said instead of the police complying with the Harare City Council’s request to investigate Chiyangwa they were now acting the opposite.
“(Phillip) Chiyangwa was supposed to be probed, but the police are dragging their feet. So for this court to sit at the moment it is premature and jumping to the gun,” said Muchadehama.
He said that it was not fair to implicate all the eight councillors as “it did not need a rally to publish an article and that the exhibit by the state was not valid.
“It does not need a rally to publish or leak the report and it is unfortunate that the court proceeds without those who published the said articles,” said Muchadehama.
“It might have been the work of the secretary who typed the document, the internet hackers for we know state security agents can do that for one reason or the other.”
Meanwhile, the police have not yet made arrests on investigations requested by council in its report filed by then acting Mayor Charity Bango.
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said the police had received the report from council and their investigations were under way, but no arrests had been made yet.