High Court hears Magamba’s challenge of police seizure of computers

HIGH Court Judge Justice Happious Zhou will on Monday 20 November 2017 preside over the hearing of an urgent chamber application filed by Magamba Cultural Activist Network Trust seeking to compel the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to return some computers, which they seized from the social media outlet last week and to stop them from demanding passwords of the computers and laptops.

Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri

Human rights lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights petitioned the High Court on Thursday 16 November 2017 seeking an order for the release of Magamba Cultural Activist Network TV’s equipment, which was confiscated on Tuesday 14 November 2017 after some ZRP officers raided and seized some laptops and computers belonging to the social media outlet at their Harare offices during an operation which the law enforcement agents claimed was linked to investigations regarding the alleged commission of the offence of subverting constitutional government.

The ZRP officers, who conducted the raid and seized Magamba Cultural Activist Network Trust’s property, were armed with a search warrant, which was granted on Wednesday 08 November 2017 by Harare Magistrate Elisha Singano authorising the law enforcement agents to confiscate laptops, computers and printers belonging to Magamba Cultural Activist Network Trust.

The ZRP officers claimed that the seizure of the Magamba Cultural Activist Network Trust’s property was based on reasonable grounds that such devices were used or may afford evidence in the commission or suspected commission of the offence of subverting constitutional government as defined in section 22 (2) (a)(i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23.

In the urgent chamber application, which will be heard at 4:PM on Monday 20 November 2017, Bhatasara, who listed Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu, ZRP Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Detective Chief Inspector Edmore Runganga as respondents, argued that the ZRP’s search warrant is invalid and a nullity as it was not issued in accordance with the law.

Bhatasara argued that the search warrant was issued without complying with the provisions of section 50 (1) (a) as read with section 49 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (Chapter 9:07).

The human rights lawyer argued that the warrant of search contravenes section 57 of the Constitution which provides for the right to privacy and that the demand by the ZRP officers to be furnished with passwords of the seized computers and laptops is not backed by any law or court order. In addition,

Bhatasara argued that some of the laptops seized belong to individual employees and are not owned by Magamba Cultural Activist Network Trust and as such it is impossible to comply with the ZRP’s request for the passwords.

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