Freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono will spend the weekend in prison after Harare Magistrate Lazini Ncube deferred proceedings to Monday 11 January 2021 while Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) members arrested Zengeza West constituency legislator Hon. Job Sikhala at Harare Magistrates Court.
During Chin’ono’s initial remand appearance, lawyers Harrison Nkomo and Paidamoyo Saurombe from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), raised several complaints against ZRP members whom they accused of denying the freelance journalist the right to access lawyers and being removed from isolation as he had been in contact with some people who had tested positive to coronavirus.
Magistrate Ncube, who rolled over proceedings to Monday 11 January 2021 owing to time constraints, ordered Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) officers to ensure that Chin’ono is transported to remand prison alone and is detained in isolation in jail. Magistrate Ncube also ordered ZPCS to provide the freelance journalist with warm water and bedding while in prison.
On Monday 11 January 2021, Chin’ono’s lawyers are expected to challenge his placement on remand. Chin’ono, who was arrested on Friday 8 January 2021, was charged with publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State as defined in section 31(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act after he allegedly tweeted about the abuse of a minor by a police officer.
Prosecutors alleged that the 49-year-old Chin’ono published a false statement to members of the public on Twitter between 5 January 2021 and 7 January 2021 falsely alleging that a child had been beaten to death by a police officer after law enforcement agents indiscriminately assaulted the mother of the child in Harare.
The statement, prosecutors alleged reads; “This is the most heart-breaking video I have seen in a long time. A child was beaten to death by a Zimbabwean police officer after he indiscriminately beat up the mother of a nine-month-old child resulting in him striking the child in the head with a button stick! Why Why Why does the regime rely on violence against its citizens. Why Why Why?, When will this end???, Police violence in Zimbabwe is institutionalised and casually encouraged by the ruling ZANU PF elites publicly.”
Prosecutors charged that the statement was false as Chin’ono had not verified it as true and intended to undermine public confidence in ZRP.
Meanwhile, ZRP members on Saturday 9 January 2021 arrested Hon. Sikhala on yet to be established charges while he was at Harare Magistrates Court together with other lawyers representing Chin’ono and detained him at Harare Central Police Station. Hon. Sikhala is represented by Jeremiah Bamu of ZLHR.
Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights