Vol.22 No.112

Tuesday 1 August 2006    
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News
Btv scribes claim immunity against Zim prosecution

FRASER MPOFU
Correspondent

8/1/2006 3:08:40 PM (GMT +2)

The trial of two BTV journalists who were arrested in Zimbabwe in April, started in Plumtree last week, but they were again not formally charged after their lawyers claimed immunity against prosecution.


The journalists are facing charges of illegally entering Zimbabwe and gathering news without being accredited by the government-appointed Media and Information Commission.

Their lawyers, Promise Ncube and Kucaca Phulu both of Bulawayo-based Coghlan and Welsh stated that since the scribes, Beauty Mokoba (29) and Koketso Seofela (25) were on official business when they allegedly committed the crime, they have a right to claim immunity.

As a result, Mokoba and Seofela were again not formally charged with contravening a section of the Immigration Act and some sections of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act when they appeared again before Plumtree resident magistrate, Mark Dziba.

In their submissions, Phulu and Ncube said the Botswana government had already intervened in the matter and claimed immunity in terms of its rights and international law.

To that end, Bapasi Mphusu, the Director of the Department of Broadcasting Services in the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology confirmed to the court that Mokoba and Seofela were bona fide Btv employees.

He chronicled the circumstances surrounding their arrest and the nature of the assignment they were on when they were arrested in April this year.

He stated that reporter Mokoba and cameraman Seofela, who are out of custody on bail, were on an official assignment to do a story on an alleged foot and mouth disease outbreak along the Botswana-Zimbabwe border.

Hence, he said they allegedly committed the crimes in their official government capacities. Under cross-examination, Mphusu agreed with State Counsel, Prince Dube that the journalists should not have crossed the border into Zimbabwe to do the story without observing relevant procedures.

Dube said the scribes can only legally practise their trade on Botswana territory and could only do so in Zimbabwe after obtaining valid registration from the Communications Ministry.

"Zimbabwe has a right to try anyone who commits offences within its borders. Their conduct was unlawful to both their employer and Zimbabwe," Dube contended.

Mphusu conceded that they did not have a mandate to enter Zimbabwe. But Ncube suggested that the case be handled, not in court but at government level. Dziba will rule on the matter on September 4.

It is the State's case that on April 30, at around 11.30am, Mokoba and Seofela allegedly entered Zimbabwe illegally and approached veterinary officers at Mphoengs border post seeking information on the disease outbreak.

A Zimbabwean police officer in the area got wind of their presence and questioned them resulting in the discovery that they had allegedly illegally entered Zimbabwe and that they were not accredited by the relevant ministry. The policeman then arrested them. Send us your comments about Mmegi newspaper Search For Old Newspaper Editions To advertise contact us through email

 
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