Fungai Lupande Court Reporter
NewsDay deputy editor Nqaba Matshazi and reporter Xolisani Ncube’s story alleging members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) were secretly paid their annual bonuses last year sparked the Chitungwiza demonstrations, the court heard yesterday.
Matshazi and Ncube appeared in court jointly charged with their employer, Alpha Media Holdings (Private) Limited, which was represented by its company secretary, Sifikile Thabeta.
Harare magistrate Mr Elijah Makomo granted Matshazi and Ncube $200 bail each. As part of their bail conditions, Mr Makomo ordered the pair to surrender their passports and report every Friday at CID Law and Order.
They were also ordered to reside at their given addresses and not to interfere with State witnesses.
The trio’s lawyer, Mr Taona Nyamakura, gave notice to court that he intends to apply for referral of the matter to the Constitutional Court.
Mr Makomo postponed the matter to January 27.
The three face charges of communicating or publishing falsehoods prejudicial to the State in contravention of Section 31 (a) (ii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23, alternatively Section 31 (b) (ii) (B) of the same Act.
Prosecuting, Ms Sharon Mashavira alleged that the trio connived and published a false story in the NewsDay newspaper on Wednesday headlined, “CIOs secretly get bonuses”.
The story read in part: “The Government last year quietly paid Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives their annual bonuses, yet postponed, several times, paying the salaries of civil servants . . . While most civil servants were penniless during the festive season, members of the CIO received their December salaries on December 21 and their bonuses 10 days later . . . ”
The trio, well knowing in truth and fact that Government did not pay the 2015 bonuses to the CIO staff or members, allegedly published the false article without verification.
The court heard that as a result of the story, the message was communicated nationally, causing an outcry from other Government employees.
This resulted in Chitungwiza demonstrations on the same day, it is alleged.
Some of the placards displayed by the demonstrators were written, “Together united, pay all civil servants their dues now, bonus are crumbs that fall from the masters table,” among others.