The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) yesterday confirmed the removal of “criminal defamation” from the country’s statutes in terms of the old Constitution, bringing a sigh of relief to the media fraternity which had borne the brunt of the draconian law for decades.
SENIOR COURT REPORTER
Deputy Attorney-General Prince Machaya told the full Concourt bench headed by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku that Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, had approved the striking-off of the law.
“The minister has gone further to indicate that while the applicant [NewsDay Editor Nevanji Madanhire and another] may proceed to have the relief sought, the crime of criminal defamation should remain in the statutes until such a time it is challenged in terms of the new Constitution,” Machaya said.
In his brief ruling, Chief Justice Chidyausiku said: “The rule nisi is confirmed and an appropriate declaratory order will be issued in due course.”
In June this year, the ConCourt bench comprising of Justices Chidyausiku, Luke Malaba, Elizabeth Gwaunza, Vernanda Ziyambi, Ben Hlatshwayo, Anne-Marie
Gowora, Antoinette Guvava and Bharat Patel made a landmark ruling to the effect that the offence of criminal defamation was “not consistent with the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Constitution”.
For many years, the laws of criminal defamation have been condemned by international bodies.
Madanhire, former Standard senior reporter Patience Nyangove and former company representative Loud Ramakgapola were arrested and charged with criminal defamation over the newspaper’s lead story in the weekly issue headed: MDC-T fears for missing Timba’s life.
However, they later challenged the constitutionality of the section of the law prompting the matter to be referred to the ConCourt for determination.
Meanwhile, the other matters involving the same journalists were struck off the roll after their lawyers failed to turn up for the hearing.