A HARARE magistrate yesterday changed the plea of a 25-year-old Chitungwiza man who is accused of re-tweeting a message from a spoof account named after Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba after she had already convicted him of the crime.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
Night Tawona Shadaya, who is represented by Noble Chinhanu from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, successfully applied for change of plea before magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa, saying he had mistakenly pleaded guilty to the charge due to a misunderstanding of the essential elements of the offence.
In her ruling, Mugwagwa said it was clear from the record that the essential elements of the matter were not clearly stated and that there was a possibility that the accused thought the Twitter account belonged to Chigumba. Shadaya’s lawyer had submitted that his client had wrongly and mistakenly pleaded guilty after having had an incorrect understanding of the essential elements of the charge.
Chinhanu said the accused never had intention to commit the offence and was not afforded the chance to defend himself. The accused was not made to enquire if the Twitter account was genuine and retweeted from the account which he believed was Chigumba’s.
The State, represented by Francisca Mukumbiri, had opposed the application, saying the court is only waiting for Shadaya to proffer special circumstances of the matter, as he was already convicted.
Mugwagwa postponed the matter to November 5 for trial.
It is alleged that sometime in August this year, an unknown person created a Twitter account in the name of Chigumba and tweeted a message which read: “I can’t wait for the elections fiasco to come to an end. I could do with a holiday and some good sex. My body needs a break.”
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The State alleges that the tweet seriously impaired Chigumba’s dignity.