THE High Court yesterday acquitted Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activists Joanah Mamombe and Cecilia Chimbiri, who were being accused of publishing falsehoods and fabricating their abduction by State security agents.
Mamombe and Chimbiri approached the High Court challenging a lower court’s decision to allow their criminal matter to proceed to the defence.
A Harare magistrate had ruled that the State had established a prima facie case against the duo.
Chief magistrate Faith Mushure had dismissed their application for discharge at the close of the State case.
However, Mamombe and Chimbiri approached the High Court for review of Mushure’s determination.
High Court judge Justice Priscilla Munangati-Manongwa upheld their application for review saying the lower court erred in dismissing the duo’s application.
She said State witnesses’ evidence was irreconcilable and the falsity of the alleged statement was simply absent.
She said the evidence of the State witnesses had been “discredited during cross-examination and had become so manifestly unreliable such that no reasonable court could safely convict on such evidence.”
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Said Munangati-Manongwa: “The evidence of the State witnesses is simply irreconcilable and the falsity of the alleged statement is simply absent.
“The decision of the court is found to be grossly unreasonable, irrational characterised by bias and malice and cannot be in accordance with real and substantial justice.”
The judge said Mamombe and Chimbiri could not be pushed into a defence case to supplement the inadequacies of the State case.
She added that to adopt such an approach would be unconstitutional and against the principles that place the burden on the State to prove its case and in this case, on a prima facie basis at the close of the State case.
“It is not for the court to try and prop up a crumbling case, a court has to acquit in the absence of evidence to support an essential element of a charge, or where the evidence is manifestly unreliable that no reasonable court can act on it,” Munangati-Manongwa said.
“The application has merit and, therefore, succeeds. In that regard, the applicants are entitled to a discharge at the close of the State case.
“The accused persons Joanah Mamombe and Cecilia Revai Chimbiri be and are hereby found not guilty, discharged and acquitted at the close of the State case. There is no order as to costs.”
She also ruled that the lower court underplayed the contradictions in the State case, particularly the evidence of one Tapera Christopher Kazembe, a spectrum manager at the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, and one Godfrey Mangezi.
“A judicial officer has to be impartial and where the parties reasonably perceive that a judicial officer is not impartial, that impacts upon the decision made. In reality, such an officer must recuse himself or herself,” she ruled.
The judge said the evidence of the State witnesses was so discredited during cross-examination and had become so manifestly unreliable such that no reasonable court could safely convict on such evidence.