Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa this week defended the arrest of journalists under the criminal defamation laws.
This was after Parliamentarians condemned the arrest of the Daily News Editor Stanley Gama and his senior reporter Fungi Kwaramba on Monday. The two were charged by the police for allegedly criminally defaming businessman Kamal Khalfan.
Parliamentarians said the ZANU PF government was trying to curtail free speech in the wake of reports on corruption in high places. They argued that the Criminal Law Act, under which Gama and Kwaramba were charged, is now outdated and must be done away with.
The MDC-T shadow minister for communications and Kuwadzana MP, Nelson Chamisa, set the ball rolling in parliament by asking Mnangagwa why the law was still being used and why it was used selectively against independent journalists. To loud cheers Chamisa said: 'This must be stopped,' a report in the Daily News said.
However, Mnangagwa said the government will continue to use the criminal defamation law because 'it is part of our law.' He said: 'Journalists must be 'responsible and accountable for their actions and must be answerable.' He said for as long as they don't approach the Constitutional Court to repeal the law the government will continue to use it.
Chamisa told SW Radio Africa that all he had sought was clarification on why the government was using a law which is unconstitutional. Chamisa said: 'The minister just went ballistic. Instead of responding to the issues he was just trying to find side shows and to shadow box unnecessarily. He was clearly unhappy with being told the truth about corruption in the country.'
Mnangagwa's views contradict those of his close ally and information minister Jonathan Moyo. Moyo said the arrest of Gama and his reporter was 'unnecessary' adding that the defamation law should be done away with.
Chamisa said this contradiction points to the confusion that is prevalent within the ZANU PF government.