BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
The High Court yesterday threw out charges of incitement to public violence against journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.
Chin’ono was arrested last year, with the State alleging that his tweets ahead of planned demonstrations on July 31 were meant to incite public violence.
However, High Court judge Justice Siyabonga Musithu ruled that the case lacked essential elements and particulars to prove that he committed an offence.
Justice Musithu pointed out that there were contradictions on Chin’ono’s charge sheet, adding that the State outline also left the journalist unsure of his alleged offence.
Chin’ono had filed an application for review of his application for exception, which was dismissed by Harare magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti-Guwuriro.
Justice Musithu ruled that review by Muchuchuti-Guwuriro should be set aside and replaced by the ruling that Chin’ono be found not guilty and be disqualified from further participating on the criminal prosecution.
“The respondent’s (Muchuchuti-Guwuriro) ruling dated May 28, 2021 under CRB ACC77/20 is reviewed and hereby set aside and replaced with the following order: that the exception succeeds and the accused is found not guilty on the main and alternative charges, and is discharged. Respondent be and is hereby disqualified from further participation in the criminal prosecution of the applicant who shall be tried by a different magistrate,” Justice Musithu ruled.
“The respondents shall bear the costs of suit.”
Chin’ono was being represented by Doug Coltart, Beatrice Mtetwa and Gift Mtisi.
The State had alleged that between May and July 2020, Chin’ono committed a crime by posting on his Twitter handle @daddyhope that: “Zimbabwe will never be freed from these looters through rigging elections and if you go to court, their Judiciary is a waste of time. Their looting partners will be waiting for you. Change will come by any
The State further alleged that Chin’ono called for the illegal removal of the Zanu PF-led government.
Justice Musithu ruled that Muchuchuti-Guwuriro misdirected herself when she mero motu (on her own volition) interpreted the charges, State outline and tweets in a manner designed to defeat Chin’ono’s exception.
“The first respondent (Muchuchuti-Guwuriro) committed a gross irregularity when she found and concluded that by pleading to the charges, Chin’ono did so because he fully understood the charges,” he ruled.
Justice Musithu said Chin’ono had a right to disseminate information as a journalist.
- Follow Desmond on Twitter @DChingarande1