VOP directors freed

HARARE - A Zimbabwean magistrate has refused to place on further remand the directors of Voice of the People radio station accused of broadcasting without a licence.
Magistrate Bhila said the State's bid to have the commencement of the trial postponed a third time was "becoming a circus". The

State had argued for a postponement of the matter for trial on 7 – 9 November 2006 because it still wanted to verify VOP’s registration with the Registrar of Companies at the Deeds Office.
The verification would enable the State to proceed against the VOP as a company as opposed to charging the individuals and would only then be in a position to accordingly withdraw the charges when next they appeared in court.
VOP directors David Masunda, Nhlanhla Ngwenya, Lawrence Chibwe, Millie Phiri, Arnold Tsunga, Isabella Matambanadzo and director John Masuku, were being accused of contravening section 7(1) of the Broadcasting Services Act Chapter 12:06 as read with Section 6 (a) (b) which prohibits broadcasting without a licence.
Maria Nyanyiwa, Nyasha Bosha and Kundai Mugwanda, journalists with the VOP were also facing similar charges. The accused were all on bail.
The magistrate, however, ruled in favour of the defence after their lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa argued that a further postponement was out of the question because the State had indicated as early as 24 January 2006 that it was ready to go to trial only for the matter to be postponed twice with the last postponement being on 15 June 2006.
Mtetwa said she had been in constant communication with the State giving it ample time to verify any grey areas. Mtetwa submitted that verification of the VOP’s registration would not even take an hour. “I have also availed the State with the stamped registration documents but the State says it is still investigating. The State can so investigate but there is no need for them (accused) to be on remand. Why should the courts prolong their agony,” argued Mtetwa.
“I totally agreed with the legal counsel. It is now becoming a circus. Remand is refused,” said the magistrate adding that the State could proceed by way of summons. – MISA

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