By- The Kumalo Primary School headmistress who was facing charges of posting pornographic material on WhatsApp has been acquitted.
Stella Mhlanga was charged for contravening Section 26 of the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act Chapter 10:04 (Possession of prohibited articles).
Allegations were that she accidentally shared a revealing picture of her private parts on her WhatsApp status.
In her defence outline, Mhlanga through her lawyer Byron Sengweni of Sengweni Legal Practice argued that she was never in possession of the alleged pornographic content.
She said she received the phone from her sister Sibusisiwe Moyo who is based in South Africa.
Mhlanga further stated that before her sister handed over the phone to her, she cleared the phone memory and when she received the phone there was absolutely nothing in it.
In acquitting her, Bulawayo magistrate Marygold Ndlovu ruled that the State failed to establish essential elements of the charges levelled against Mhlanga. The magistrate ruled:
In the court’s view, the fact that the images were only recovered through forensic software makes the accused person’s defence that everything was cleared at the time she received the cellphone reasonably possibly true.
It is equally possible that these images had been deleted prior and were not visible in the gallery with a naked eye.
Further, the evidence led on behalf of the State did not prove whether these are the same images posted to the accused person’s WhatsApp status.
Had the State led evidence to prove that these were the same images posted on the accused person’s WhatsApp status the court could have been persuaded that the accused had been in possession of the images at that time and had deleted them to conceal evidence.
In case the court finds no reason to dismiss the accused’s defence as not reasonably possibly true.
In the premises, the State has failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and the accused person is accordingly found not guilty and acquitted.
Prosecutors had alleged that on 2 August 2021, the Provincial Victim Friendly Unit received a tip-off to the effect that Mhlanga had posted pornographic material on her WhatsApp status.
On realising her error, Mhlanga allegedly immediately removed the picture but some of her contacts including teachers and parents with children at her school had saved it and forwarded it to their friends.
Mhlanga was eventually arrested following investigations by the police.
Investigators also seized her cell phone Samsung N910F Galaxy Note taken to the police station.
The cellphone was then referred to CID National Cyber Forensics Laboratory, Bulawayo for examination.
During the forensic examinations, four pornographic images were allegedly retrieved from Mhlanga’s phone.