BULAWAYO – THE Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has filed an urgent application at the Constitutional Court seeking an order for internet live streaming of Nelson Chamisa’s Presidential Election petition.
MISA is joined in the action by veteran journalist Busani Bafana.
MISA argues that justice must not only be done but has to be seen to be done, making it necessary that Zimbabweans who are also an interested party, be able to watch proceedings in real time.
The Constitutional Court is due to begin hearing Chamisa’s petition on August 22.
Proceedings in Zimbabwean courts are open to the public and the media, but the use of cellphones or handheld electronic devices is not permitted.
Bulawayo-based freelance journalist Bafana, the second applicant, argued that he would be unable to travel to Harare to cover the court proceedings.
Both MISA and Bafana state that the election challenge is in the national interest.
In his supporting affidavit, Bafana says: “… I believe that the live-streaming of the proceedings in the matter… accords with modern journalistic trends in that the process will enable journalists like myself, that are not resident in Harare; and cannot readily travel to that city, to completely, accurately and effectively report on the matter in real time for the public benefit.”
The applicants further argued that the public interest in electoral matters is not only limited to the casting of votes and announcement of election results, but also includes coverage of any challenges pertaining to the election process.
The MISA application cites the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and presidential election candidates, Nelson Chamisa, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and Noah Manyika as nominal respondents.
Nominal respondents are not required to make any submissions pertaining to this particular application. They are only cited for their own information.
MISA national director Tabani Moyo, in an affidavit, says “court proceedings are public and the objective must be realised”.
He added: “Therefore, I believe the live streaming of the matter under the cover of Case No. CCZ 42/18 through the internet will go a long way in enabling these proceedings to be meaningfully accessible to the public.
“Since our laws already make provision for the reporting of court cases through print media, I believe that there is no logic in allowing journalists to use reporting techniques of print media (yesterday’s technology) yet not permit a journalist to utilize modern techniology and method of communication, especially where the latter will be more accurate than the second hand accounts of print journalists.”
Livestreaming of court cases is not new in southern Africa, with South African courts showing greater flexibility. In 2014, journalists were allowed to stream live the trial of infamous Paralympic athlete, Oscar Pistorius, who murdered his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Chamisa is challenging incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s victory in the July 30 elections as declared by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. Mnangagwa polled 50.8 percent to Chamisa’s 44.3, according to the electoral commission.
Chamisa alleges systematic fraud which he says inflated Mnangagwa’s numbers.