Criminal defamation: Borrowing from Empire

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Muckraker is following closely the case whereby the government is arguing for the retention of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on the grounds that it was a necessary evil in regulating the media. Government argues it should remain on the statute book.

MuckRaker

Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, on behalf of the Attorney-General (AG)’s Office opposes an application by Misa for the repeal of the Act.

In exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media under Section 61 of the constitution journalists should also guard the right of others to freedom of expression as freedom of expression is not an absolute right, the AG argued. Government argued that criminal defamation was a fair and justifiable limitation on the right to freedom of expression.

The constitutional court was due to hear the matter this week.
We don’t want to second guess a matter before the courts here, but some sort of background may be useful. Criminal defamation is a hand-me-down from the colonial dispensation prior to 1980. It was derived from English common law and tailored for law and order regulation throughout the British Empire. Most notably it was designed to suppress colonial nationalism. James Chikerema was a victim in Rhodesia.

As British dependencies became independent, their new governments saw legislation such as the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act as anomalous with a democratic society.

Zimbabwe authorities however continued to make use of the legislation just as they made use of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act. We await with interest the outcome of the constitutional court application by Misa and others.

Sepp’s bête noir
England have exacted a sweet revenge on Sepp Blatter who has been booted out as Fifa president. All those suitcases travelling back and forth to the West Indies will have to be accounted for.
And South Africa has been caught up in the mess. Now Blatter says he will go after England, his bête noir. This time of course he won’t have the Fifa millions at his disposal. And his Caribbean friend is otherwise engaged.

Important indaba
Muckraker is also interested to see what transpires at the forthcoming Aids conference to be held at the Victoria Falls in November. This is a very large and important indaba (Icasa 2015) and Zimbabwe wants it to be a success. It has been chosen because of its progress in managing the Aids crisis.

South Africa, we understand, will be sending a large delegation. It will almost certainly contain representatives of the Animal Farm community of which President Robert Mugabe is so fond. Watch this space.

Let’s take stock
Meanwhile we should use the Victoria Falls meeting to take stock of our resources. Vast acreages have been plundered in the Eastern Highlands, stolen or burnt. That needs to be recorded. Farms in Karoi, once the nation’s bread basket, need to be mentioned. We recall the vast irrigation equipment that adorned our farms and the huge grain silos that stored the produce of the farms.
All these demographic changes have a bearing on the health of farm workers.

Lame claim

Britain is leading a clique of EU countries to maintain a hostile stance against Zimbabwe, the Herald lamely reported this week.
Information at hand, the newspaper said, indicates the West has planned to pour resources into the civil sector and judiciary.

“In pursuit of their goal, head of the EU delegation to Zimbabwe, Mr Phillipe van Damme, British ambassador Ms Catriona Laing and Dutch ambassador Ms Gera Sneller on July 2 participated in a high-level conference on Europe/Zimbabwe relations,” we are told.

Charamba’s bombast
That might well be the case. But presidential spokesman George Charamba has muddied the political waters by claiming it is the responsibility of the investigating arms of government, not Mugabe to take a leading role in establishing the whereabouts of journalist-cum-political activist Itai Dzamara.

This is extraordinary. When it suits Charamba he is the first to assert the presidential power. Now he is abdicating it.
“I dismiss calls for the president to pronounce himself on the matter as pre-eminently political and thus not worthy of his attention,” Charamba pompously declared. “People go missing here and elsewhere in the world.”

Indeed, they do. And their leaders handle the matter with greater skill than Charamba who thinks we will be impressed by his bombast.

A toast to Dzamara
The French had hoped to drive a wedge between the British and French governments over the Zimbabawe issue. But that strategy appears to have fallen apart with the Herald picture of French ambassador Laurent Delahousse toasting to an absent Itai Dzamara on Bastille Day.

Speaking at the event to mark the French national day, Delahousse said: “Here in Zimbabwe, a mother, a wife and her two kids are mourning a husband and father who has not returned home because one afternoon he was abducted by yet unidentified people,” he said.
“I do not know that man, all I know is that he was peaceful and fighting with his words to express his ideas. Some people took him for that and he has not been found. This man has become a symbol, I will not let him down.”

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