The Sunday Mail editor Mabasa Sasa, investigations editor Brian Chitemba and reporter Tinashe Farawo were yesterday granted $100 bail each after Harare magistrate Mr Tendai Mahwe ruled that it was a mockery of the judicial system to deny them bail.
The trio is facing charges of communicating or publishing false statements prejudicial to the State.
As per court procedure, Mr Mahwe did not give the trio’s defence council Advocate Farayi Mahere the opportunity to respond to bail opposition, saying the Advocate could not be made to react to nothing.
“State has struggled to justify their denying of bail. According to the new Constitution, bail is now a right. No compelling reasons have been forwarded by State for the court to deny the accused bail,” ruled Mr Mahwe.
“State is required to give substantive submissions and not to make bald averments. That the accused are a flight risk is mere speculation not supported by any fact or previous convictions.
“To deny the accused bail will make a mockery of the judicial system. Serious matters come here and are given consent bail.”
Mr Mahwe granted the trio $100 bail apiece and ordered them not to interfere with witnesses or investigations, report every Friday at Law and Order Section and to reside at their given addresses.
They are expected back in court on November 27. Advocate Mahere gave notice to challenge the placement of the trio on remand.
“There is no reasonable suspicion that the offence charged has been committed,” Adv Mahere said.
The investigating officer Chief Superintendent Oscar Mugomeri was called to the stand to submit his opposition to bail.
He told the court that he was instructed by Senior Assistant Commissioner Erasmus Makodza who is also Officer Commanding Minerals and Border Control to investigate the matter.
“If accused are ordered to surrender their passports as a bail condition, it is not enough,” said Chief Supt Mugomeri.
“I vehemently deny bail, the accused are facing a very serious offence and have tarnished the image of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the country.
“The country suffered an irreparable damage by the publication of the article and now we are receiving a lot of calls from International and national organisations discrediting ZRP, Parks and Wildlife and Government.
“Enough is enough they should remain in custody.”
Prosecutor Ms Sharon Mashavira, alleges that following the recent killing of 22 elephants by poachers using suspected cyanide poison, the accused published a story, “Top cop fingered in poaching saga” on Sunday.
It is alleged that the trio knew that no Assistant Commissioner of the police was being investigated for being involved in the poaching of the elephants nor has ZRP made any arrest in connection with the crime.
Resultantly the publication of the alleged false statement was communicated nationally and internationally causing an outcry from the international community who support the tourism industry.
The trio is accused of publishing falsehoods that would adversely affect the Tourism Industry and the economy.