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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Zimbabwe activist Ignatious Mhambi cleared of pornography charges

Ignatius Muhambi, left and Ellen Chademana employees of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe(GALZ), arrive at the magistrates courts in Harare
Source: African Activist

Zimbabwe state witnesses failed to produce enough evidence to convict Ignatious Mhambi, an employee of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), of violating censorship laws, The Zimbabwean Voice reports. Mhambi and colleague Ellen Chademana now face charges of undermining the authority of President Mugabe for possessing a letter describing the homophobic environment GALZ faces on a daily basis.
Mhambi was on trial facing charges of allegedly possessing pornographic material, in breach of the country’s censorship laws.

In her ruling Magistrate Sandra Mupindu who presided over the matter said that there was no prima facie evidence to prove the essential elements of the case which were possession, indecent or obscene and without lawful excuse.
She added that dwelling on the areas of dispute and controversy, the two state witnesses gave contradictory evidence and they also failed to prove on the face of it that accused had exclusive practical control of the office and therefore exclusive practical possession of the pornographic material in question.

“That the material is pornographic and can corrupt the mind of anyone likely to be exposed to it cannot be disputed. However the two state witnesses couldn’t refute that accused was not the only one who had access to the office and it could be possible that the material belonged to one of his workmates. In this case the accused should be given the benefit of a doubt. The state has also failed to prove that accused had mental or physical possession of this pornographic material, entitling the accused to a discharge and aqcuital,” she explained”
Mhambi a GALZ consultant accountant was on trial for  contravening section 26(1) of the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act (Chapter10:04) . The police alleged that they found the pornographic DVD and booklet from the office drawers, which Mhambi was using when they raided the GALZ offices on Ma y 21.
Meanwhile Mhambi still in a jovial mood was served with summons to appear in court yesterday on charges of insulting or undermining the Authority of the President.

Mhambi together with colleague Ellen Chademana are being charged for the Proclamation which was displayed in the GALZ boardroom. F ormer San F rancisco Ma yor Willie L Brown awarded the proclamation to the organization in 1997 for its activism and hard work despite working in a homophobic environment.
The timing of the arrests of the GALZ activists is suspicious and now even more so given the weak and contradictory evidence provided by the state. Zimbabwe is writing a new constitution and is in the middle of the outreach phase where people throughout the country offer their views about what needs to be included in the new constitution. Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) are defending themselves in court instead of advocating for LGBTI rights in the constitution.

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