A former Midlands State University student accused of retweeting a message denigrating the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Priscilla Chigumba and charged with criminal insult plans to change his plea.
Night Tawona Shadaya, 25, initially pleaded guilty after he was charged with criminal insult charge for retweeting a message besmirching Chigumba in the aftermath of the hotly-contested July 30 elections.
Attorneys for Shadaya filed a request at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts yesterday to change his guilty plea. A plea agreement, detailing his new prayer, was also filed with the court.
Shadaya was charged with breaching section 95 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act).
The lanky Harare man appeared before Harare magistrate Rumbidzayi Mugwagwa for sentencing, but Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZHLR) lawyers became his new counsel.
Idanashe Chikomba asked the courts to postpone the matter as the accused wanted to change his plea from guilty to not guilty.
The lawyers asked for postponement of sentencing saying the accused had not fully understood the charge.
“He wasn’t aware of his rights when he made a plea, he didn’t know what he was saying,” lawyer Chikomba told the court.
Mugwagwa interjected: “When I asked the accused whether he understood the charges, he agreed.”
Chikomba shot back: “From the record, we realised that the accused wasn’t asked whether he knew the twitter account was fake or real. If the courts continue with the case, it would be denying the accused the right to put forward a defence.”
He added: “The accused pleaded guilty to retweeting the message, but did not plead guilty to knowingly retweeting from a fake account. He wasn’t aware that the account did not belong to the complainant.”
The 25-year-old had argued that he was not in his right senses when he committed the offence, and that it was not intentional.
He pleaded for the court’s lenience saying he was not employed and lived off his mother.
The bogus tweet which was circulated by Shadaya purported to be from Chigumba’s account read: “I can’t wait for the election fiasco to come to an end. I could do with a holiday and some good sex. My body needs a break.”