Con-Court stays ERC officials' prosecution

HARARE - The Constitutional Court has ordered the stay of prosecution of Election Resource Centre (ERC) officials accused of illegally conducting voter education.

A full bench of the Con-Court judges ruled that there was no reasonable suspicion warranting the ERC and three others to face criminal charges.

The ERC is accused of conducting voter education without the approval of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) ahead of last year’s general elections.

ERC was represented by its director Tawanda Chimhini, and was accused of contravening Section 40 (c) (1) (g) of the Electoral Act which deals with conducting voter education without authority from Zec.

Chimhini was jointly charged with Farai Saungweme, Wadzanai Previous Nyakudya and Moses Chikora.

Defence lawyer Trust Maanda approached the Constitutional Court, claiming his clients’ right to freedom of expression had been infringed. He said the charges also infringed on his clients’ right to liberty.

Prosecutor Fortune Chimbaru conceded that there was nothing criminal in the conduct of the four, adding that what they did does not fall under the purview of what is prohibited.

The Constitutional Court judges granted Maanda’s application following Chimbaru’s concession.

“The prosecution of applicants infringes their right to liberty in terms of S49 (1) (b) of the Constitution for there being no reasonable suspicion of their having committed an offence,” reads the order.

The group was accused of having participated in a campaign which was meant to raise awareness on the need for youths to meaningfully participate in electoral processes ahead of last year’s harmonised elections.

The State claimed that the voter education process was conducted without first being sanctioned by Zec.

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