Beatrice Mtetwa who was representing four directors of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, who were being charged with publishing a newspaper without a licence, complained that her clients had been detained in “inhuman conditions”.
The four directors- Rachel Kupara, Stuart Mattinson, Brian Mutsau and ANZ Chief Executive Officer Samuel Sipepa Nkomo were released on bail after spending two nights in police custody.
ANZ published the Daily Ness and the Daily News on Sunday.
Mtetwa complained that the directors were held in a tiny, unsanitary prison cell and were denied food and medicine which was a violation of basic human rights.
Viewing cable 03HARARE2159, LEGAL BATTLE ON AFTER RELEASE OF ANZ DIRECTORS
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
301320Z Oct 03
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 002159
DEPT FOR AF/PDPA FOR DALTON, MITCHELL AND SIMS
AF/S FOR DELISI, RAYNOR
NSC FOR JENDAYI FRAZER
LONDON FOR GURNEY
PARIS FOR NEARY
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: LEGAL BATTLE ON AFTER RELEASE OF ANZ DIRECTORS
REF: (A) HARARE 2132 (B) HARARE 1997 AND PREVIOUS
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED; NOT FOR INTERNET POSTING.
Â¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: A court magistrate on October 29 ordered
the release of four directors of the Associated Newspapers
of Zimbabwe (ANZ), reserving judgment on criminal charges
pending against them until November 13. Armed police
continue to bar access to ANZ offices, preventing resumed
publication of The Daily News (TDN) or The Daily News on
Sunday (TDNS). ANZ lawyers advised the Embassy that they
plan to seek a court order from the High Court requiring
police to stand down and to permit publication. END
Â¶2. (U) Four ANZ directors – Rachel Kupara (44), Stuart
Mattinson (58), Brian Mutsau (43) and ANZ Chief Executive
Officer Samuel Sipepa Nkomo (58) — on October 29 werehave
been released on bail after spending two nights in police
custody. Each paid Z$50,000 (us$9) to be freed, after the
presiding magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe ordered the
directors to return on November 13 for a determination on
whether the directors have a case to answer on charges of
“publishing without a license” and “contempt of court.”
Magistrate Guvamombe reserved judgment until November 13,
saying he needed time to pore over a High Court ruling made
in Bulawayo on October 27 that freed another ANZ director,
Washington Sansole, who was arrested last Sunday and held
overnight in police custody on charges of publishing
without a license.
Â¶3. (U) In presenting her heads of argument in court, ANZ
lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa complained of the “inhuman
conditions” in the “tiny, unsanitary prison cell” in which
the directors were held while in police custody. She also
protested against the “limited access” given to the legal
consulcounsel by the Officer Commanding at the police
cells, adding that they were also denied food and medicine.
“This is a violation of the basic human rights,” Mtetwa
told magistrate Guvamombe.
Â¶4. (U) The four directors of the country’s only independent
daily newspaper, The Daily News, had beenwere arrested in
the afternoon on Monday, October 27 after presenting
themselves to police in Harare. They were charged with
publishing a newspaper without a license under the
controversial Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act (AIPPA). Prosecutors on October 29 altered the
charge Interestingly, the charge was altered Wednesday
morning, October 29 to include “contempt of court”
Â¶5. (U) Under the headline “We’re back!”,l TDN went to press
on October 25 after the Administrative Court ruled the
previous day, October 24 that the state-appointed Media and
Information Commission (MIC) “had not been properly
constituted.” (ref A). The court then directed that a
properly constituted commission grant the ANZ a
registration certificate by November 30 this year. This
ruling, according to the arguments submitted by the ANZ
lawyer Mtetwa to Magistrate Guvamombe, called off all its
actions to date, rendered media regulations invalid and
entitled ANZ go to press.
Â¶6. (U) Under AIPPA, the MIC has disciplinary powers to
withdraw licenses; confiscate equipment and jail
journalists for up to two years. More than 45 local
journalists have been charged and four foreign journalists
expelled since the law was passed.
Â¶7. (SBU) Meanwhile, the siege on ANZ offices mounted by
armed police remains in force. ANZ legal adviser Gugulethu
Moyo informed the Embassy that ANZ would file an urgent
application in the High Court before the end of this week
to seek the police’s immediate removal and resumption of
publishing operations. Mtetwa advised that AIPPA was
unclear on which legal venue was competent to order
resumption of operations – the High Court, the
Administrative Court, or the Magistrate’s office.
Arguably, any of the three could, although Mtetwa did not
suggest ANZ would present the question to the
Administrative Court (which found resoundingly in its favor
October 24) with the matter pending before the other two.
Â¶8. (SBU) COMMENT: From South Africa, ANZ Chairman Strive
Masiyiwa was quoted publicly as predicting that publication
would resume “in a matter of weeks.” Although the law
appears to compel a finding that publication be permitted
immediately, no court has ruled on the issue yet – the
Administrative Court came closest in its order that ANZ’s
registration (the absence of which has been the basis of
the government-induced shutdown) would be deemed effective
on November 30. The courts will likely strain to avoid
making a judgment they fear will be ignored (as the
magistrate did), but ANZ appears prepared to make such
avoidance impossible. For its part, the government has
ignored the intent of a series of court decisions in ANZ’s
favor but has yet to defy an explicit court order,
capitalizing instead on limits and omissions in each
decision for some fig leaf of legal authority. The
decisive sway held by Information Minister Moyo on this
issue so far, however, suggests that the government is
prepared to defy an explicit court order when the time