HARARE – Journalist Edmund Kudzayi was acquitted on Thursday after a magistrate ruled charges brought by prosecutors alleging he had been found in possession of camouflage uniform were “embarrassing”.
The former Sunday Mail editor was arrested at a police roadblock while driving through Harare’s Borrowdale suburb after a camouflage umbrella was found in his vehicle.
Police and prosecutors used a law that prohibits the wearing of camouflage uniform to charge Kudzayi. His lawyer Obey Shava from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on Monday applied for exception to the charges, saying no offence had been disclosed.
Harare magistrate Victoria Mashamba, in her ruling on Thursday afternoon, concurred with the defence.
“I agree with the defence that an umbrella is not wearable. The law is clear on what constitutes camouflage uniform. An umbrella is not listed,” the magistrate said.
“The charge sheet is vague and embarrassing. Merit on application of exception is therefore upheld and the accused is hereby found not guilty and acquitted.”
Kudzayi was detained after a Military Intelligence officer, Francis Murehwa, who was at the joint roadblock with police observed an umbrella and pouch with camouflage print in the journalist’s BMW, according to court papers.
He was charged under Section 32 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which criminalises unlawful possession and wearing of “any camouflage uniform.” It defines camouflage uniform as “any article of wearing apparel made of material carrying military-style camouflage markings.”
Kudzayi’s lawyer argued that an umbrella did not fall within the definition of “wearing apparel” and was not specified in the Defence Act as military uniform.
Kudzayi, now the publisher of a WhatsApp-based news service, Kukurigo, said he had instructed his lawyers to sue for wrongful arrest.
Shava told ZimLive outside court: “While I celebrate the acquittal, the misfortune is that through this malicious prosecution, an injustice has already been committed against my client. He spent a night in cells, was dragged before the court where he left business attending numerous court sessions.
“The state was very cruel and deliberate in its approach. Its conduct just confirms that our justice delivery system is meant to punish an accused person before he or she is even tried. This is exactly how I feel and the acquittal can not adequately compensate my client in light of all this.”