Billboard Scandal Lands Two Men in Court

Two men are facing criminal charges, they allegedly put up an illegal billboard with damaging information about a local property developer

by Victor Adetimilehin

Two men who allegedly put up an illegal billboard with damaging information about a local property developer are facing criminal charges in Zimbabwe. The billboard, which was erected near a church in Borrowdale, Harare, accused WestProperties of fraud and corruption.

A legal battle

The suspects, Grant Russel and Mark Strathen, are directors of Fairclot Investments and Paragon Printing respectively. They are charged with criminal nuisance for causing false alarm and interfering with the comfort of the complainant’s clients.

The duo has been challenging their charges in various courts, claiming that they are defective and should be quashed. They have also filed an application for refusal of further remand, saying they have a prospect of success in their appeal to the Supreme Court.

However, their efforts have been unsuccessful so far, as both the lower court and the High Court have ordered them to proceed to trial and defend themselves. The state, led by Shambadzeni Fungura, has been pushing for the trial to commence.

The ruling on their latest application has been deferred until Monday next week. Their lawyer, Tendai Biti, asked for the postponement, saying he has another ruling on Friday in a different court where he is also an accused person.

A controversial billboard

The billboard at the center of the controversy was put up on December 10, 2020, on the opposite side of Celebration Church in Borrowdale, Harare. It had the words “WestProperties: Fraudsters and Thieves” and “Stop Corruption” written on it.

According to the state, the billboard was meant to tarnish the image of WestProperties, a reputable property developer in Zimbabwe. The company has been involved in several projects, including residential, commercial, and industrial properties.

The state alleges that Russel and Strathen caused false alarm to the public through the information on the billboard, which was likely to interfere with the ordinary comfort or convenience of the complainant’s clients. However, the complainant made a report to the police, leading to the arrest of the suspects.

A hope for justice

The case has attracted public attention, as it raises questions about freedom of expression, media ethics, and consumer rights. Also, some people have expressed support for the suspects, saying they were exposing the truth about WestProperties. Others have condemned them, saying they were defaming the company without evidence.

The trial is expected to shed more light on the motives and sources of the suspects, as well as the veracity and impact of their claims. The court will also have to balance the interests of the parties and the public, and ensure that justice is served.

Source: The Herald 

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