AUGUST 12, 2005
Posted September 12, 2005
Willie Mponda, The Sun
Mponda, editor of community newspaper The Sun in the central town of Gweru, was convicted of publishing false information “prejudicial to the state” under the repressive Public Order and Security Act (POSA), according to local sources. He was fined Zimbabwean $100,000 (U.S. $5), which he paid, according to the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA). The offense under POSA carries a potential prison term of up to five years, MISA reported.
The charge stemmed from a June article in The Sun alleging that a local woman committed suicide after the police destroyed her telephone shop during a nationwide government campaign to destroy “illegal” structures. The operation, known as Operation Restore Order, leveled vast swaths of residential areas, leaving thousands of people homeless. Many local and international observers accused the government of targeting opposition supporters, who are mostly based in Zimbabwe’s cities.
In Mponda’s trial, the state denied the destruction of the telephone shop and said that no Gweru woman committed suicide as a result of the destruction. The Sun had printed a retraction of the story, which the government claimed proved Mponda’s guilt, according to MISA. Mponda had pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Although many journalists have been charged under POSA, Mponda was the first to be convicted under its provisions since the law’s enactment in 2002.