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Japajapa starts serving jail term

by Staff reporter
13 Oct 2023 at 06:14hrs | Views
This week, political activist Paddington Japajapa was incarcerated to commence a two-year prison term, as his appeal to overturn his conviction and sentence for inciting public violence during the August 2018 election results announcement was rejected by the High Court.

Japajapa vehemently criticized the results declared by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and issued threats of causing unrest in the country. His remarks were deemed inflammatory by the authorities, resulting in his arrest and subsequent legal action. He was tried, found guilty of breaching electoral laws, and sentenced to three years in prison, with one year suspended contingent on good behavior following his release. Japajapa, represented by Gift Mutisi, sought redress through the High Court.

A two-judge panel, comprising then High Court judge Justice Felistus Chatukukuta and Justice Pisirayi Kwenda, acting as an appeals court, rejected Japajapa's appeal on Monday. Immediately after the appeal was dismissed, Justice Kwenda ordered Japajapa's incarceration to initiate his prison sentence. In dismissing the appeal, Justice Kwenda remarked that there was insufficient evidence to warrant the High Court's intervention in the trial magistrate's decision.

Japajapa was captured on video at the national command center in Harare International Conference Centre, wearing full election observer attire, while delivering inflammatory statements to an unseen audience in the video. This video was subsequently uploaded to YouTube.

During the trial, Japajapa denied the charges against him but conceded that he was indeed the individual featured in the video. He, however, refuted making the controversial remarks and argued that the video was a product of State-created "Photoshop."

Following a thorough trial, the magistrate ruled that the video clip presented in court was authentic and credible for the State to rely on. On appeal, the High Court noted that Japajapa's testimony contained contradictions that could not support his case.

The judges observed that Japajapa initially denied making the statements attributed to him, asserting that the inflammatory utterances were added as a "voiceover" to his manipulated image, creating the illusion that he had delivered a press conference and made the remarks. However, post-conviction, he claimed in mitigation that he had uttered the words under emotional duress and temptation.

Justice Kwenda, ruling that the appeal against conviction lacked merit, stated, "It does not make sense that the appellant would deny making the inflammatory utterances and in the next breath admit making them albeit innocently. It is either he uttered the words or he did not."

Regarding the sentence, Japajapa failed to present specific arguments of misdirection that would render the sentence shockingly inappropriate, instead leaving it to the court's discretion. The court, therefore, found no misdirection in how the trial court approached the issue of the sentence.

The trial court had opted for imprisonment, believing that Japajapa's statements significantly contributed to the widespread and violent disturbances that followed his inflammatory remarks. Justice Kwenda highlighted that at the time, Japajapa was a senior member of the MDC Alliance, and he should have been aware of the real impact his words would have on his followers.

In her ruling during the trial, Harare magistrate Mrs. Learnmore Mapiye stated that Japajapa, accredited to monitor elections, had interfered with the announcement of results. It was revealed that on July 31, Japajapa held a press conference while election results were being announced by ZEC, where he threatened to incite chaos by claiming electoral rigging. Subsequently, MDC-Alliance supporters protested violently in the city's Central Business District, leading to property damage.

Source - The Herald
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