Zimbabwe: Challenging the Constitutionality of the Criminal Defamation Offence

Salc : Staff Writer

In 2014, the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe ruled that the offence of Criminal Defamation was unconstitutional under the former constitution. However, the Court stated that “[i]t might also be argued that the offence of criminal defamation is a justifiable limitation on the freedom of expression as envisaged by s 86 of the new Constitution,” and that “these are matters for argument and consideration as and when an appropriate case is brought for determination before this Court.”

In 2015, the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa and five media practitioners filed an application to challenge the constitutionality of the offence under the new Constitution. SALC is supporting MISA’s legal team in this application.

In July 2015, the case was before the Constitutional Court, and after the Court requested the submission of further arguments from the parties. The matter was before Court again on 3 February 2016, and the Court issued an order confirming that criminal defamation was longer a valid law in Zimbabwe.

Court Documents:

Founding Affidavit

Opposing Affidavit

Applicants’ Supplementary Heads of Argument

Order – 3 Feb 2016

Materials Related to the Case:

The Court Diary from the hearing on 3 February 2016 can be found here.

The Judgment from the Constitutional Court in 2014 which first declared the offence of criminal defamation to be unconstitutional.