The Attorney-General (AG)’s Office yesterday hinted it would withdraw part of the criminal charges against The Standard journalists, reporter Patience Nyangove and editor Nevanji Madanhire, along with Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) group human resources manager Loud Ramakgapola, who is representing the company.
The trio are being charged with criminal defamation as defined under section 96 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and section 31 which criminalises the publishing or communication of false statements prejudicial to the State and statements “undermining public confidence in a law enforcement agency, the Prison Service or the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe” as contained under section 31(a) (iii) of the same law.
The three were arrested following the publication of a story carried in the weekly Standard issue of June 26 – July 2, titled: “MDC-T fears for missing Timba”.
The three’s lawyer, Linda Cook, yesterday submitted before Harare magistrate Donald Ndirowei that the AG’s Office had decided not to proceed charging the AMH employees under Section 31 of the code.
“At the previous hearing I indicated I would be making an application for referral of this matter to the Supreme Court.
“However, I have been in contact with the AG’s Office and they are going to withdraw Section 31 which we wanted to challenge and we are no longer going to proceed with that application,” Cook submitted.
Cook said the latest development had prompted her not to proceed with her intended application for referral of the matter to the Supreme Court.
The charges against the three arose from a story that said Timba was arrested by police officers who included “the notorious Chrispen Makedenge” when the latter was allegedly not involved in the arrest.
The State will, however, proceed to charge them with criminal defamation.
However, Cook submitted the police were still holding on to Nyangove’s cellphone, two months after they requested to have the phone for two weeks to finalise their investigations.
The matter was postponed to September 14 and Cook applied for the phone to be released on that day if the matter failed to proceed to trial.
Madanhire’s reporting conditions were yesterday set aside.