Bizarre Falsehoods Trial: Advocate Mahere Seeks to Overturn Conviction and US$500 Fine

Bizarre Falsehoods Trial: Advocate Mahere Seeks to Overturn Conviction and US$500 Fine

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OPPOSITION political party Citizens’ Coalition for Change spokesperson Advocate Fadzayi Mahere has asked the High Court to overturn her conviction and sentence for allegedly publishing or communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the state.

Advocate Mahere was convicted by Harare Magistrate Taurai Manuwere on Wednesday 5 April 2023 and sentenced to payment of a fine amounting to US$500 and in default of payment, three months imprisonment.

The conviction and sentence of Advocate Mahere came after she stood trial before Magistrate Manuwere following her arrest on Monday 11 January 2021 by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) members , who charged her with publishing or communicating a false statement with the intention of inciting or promoting public disorder or public violence or endangering public safety as defined in section 31(a)(i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act alternatively section 31(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly undermining public confidence in a law enforcement agency, the Prison Service or the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe.

During trial, prosecutors alleged that Advocate Mahere, who was represented by Chris Mhike of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and David Drury, shared a message on Twitter, a famous microblogging platform, wherein she tweeted that a ZRP officer had beaten to death a baby that was strapped on its mother’s back, a claim which the State said was false.

Magistrate Manuwere acquitted Advocate Mahere of contravening section 31(a)(i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act but convicted her of contravening section 31(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly undermining public confidence in a law enforcement agency, the Prison Service or the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe.

Ironically, section 31(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act was declared void by the Constitutional Court and invalid by the High Court.

In her appeal, which was filed at Harare High Court on Monday 24 April 2023, Advocate Mahere argued that Magistrate Manuwere grossly erred and misdirected himself when after having accepted that section 31(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act was declared invalid under the former Constitution, he went on to arrive at a finding that the same provision was resuscitated or was validated by the coming into operation of the current Constitution and on account of the General Laws Amendment Act.

The constitutional lawyer charged that Magistrate Manuwere grossly erred and misdirected himself by completely ignoring the fact that she was targeted for prosecution and that her right and legitimate expectation to equality before the law was violated rendering the charge incompetent and invalid.

The US$500 fine, Advocate Mahere argued, is manifestly excessive and induces a sense of shock in that it militates against the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

Advocate Mahere wants the High Court to allow her appeal and have her conviction and sentence set aside and substituted with being found not guilty and acquitted.

ENDS

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