Court to rule Monday on ANZ application

HARARE - A Harare magistrate will on Monday rule on an application for refusal of further remand lodged  by Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) group editor, Stanley Gama in a criminal defamation case.

ANZ are publishers of the Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday and the Weekend Post.

Gama and senior writer Fungi Kwaramba are in court following a report filed by controversial businessman Kamal Khalfan over stories linking the Omani citizen to underhand deals in Zimbabwe.

During their application for refusal of further remand, the duo’s lawyer, Advocate Zvikomborero Chadambuka instructed by Gilbert Machingambi, submitted that they had no case to answer.

He said criminal defamation laws are not only inconsistent with the progressive nature of the new Declaration of Rights in Zimbabwe’s new Constitution, but also violate regional and international instruments such as the African Charter on Human  and People’s Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which compels governments to promote and protect freedom of expression, association and assembly.

“There is no evidence that suggests criminal defamation,” Chadambuka told magistrate Milton Serima.

“Criminal defamation requires that the publication should exude the intention to harm and that the information published should be false.”

Chadambuka said it was unconstitutional for the complainants to be charged under an unconstitutional law.

He said the section under which the journalists are being charged was ultra vires the new Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression and the media.

“According to the Constitution, it is utterly unjust that any person should be charged for telling the truth,” Chadambuka said.

“There is no reasonable ground that what accused persons wrote is false, therefore criminal defamation case should fall away.”

Prosecutor Venancia Mtake opposed the refusal of further remand application on the basis that the State is prepared to go to trial.

“The application made by accused persons is misplaced because the State is ready to go trial,” Mtake said.

“The docket is ready and the complainants are present such that it is not prudent at this stage for accused to make such an application.

Gama and Kwaramba appeared in court with ANZ’s finance manager Zweli Sibanda, who was representing the company.

Khalfan is the owner of Catercraft, among other businesses, and has also sued the Daily News for a whopping $10 million in a civil suit before the High Court.

Khalfan — who holds a British passport and is the honorary counsel of the Sultan of Oman — accuses Gama, Kwaramba and ANZ of publishing material with a possibility of causing serious harm to his reputation.

ANZ denies the three counts preferred against the two journalists and is defending the action.

In January, the Daily News carried stories on how businessmen such as Khalfan were using their influence and political connections to introduce dodgy investors to President Robert Mugabe.

According to State papers, the Daily News report had an effect of portraying Khalfan as someone involved in illicit activities of laundering billions of dollars from Zimbabwe and smuggling diamonds and gold through bribing government ministers.

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