The arrest of Advocate Fadzayi Mahere, Job Sikhala and Hopewell Chin’ono represents a chilling attack on freedom of expression by the State.
That the three have been charged under a law that was struck down by the Constitutional Court in 2014 makes the violation of then rights to free speech even more pernicious.
The words of Chief Justice Malaba are worth repeating: “Government is prohibited from appointing itself as a monitor of truth for people.”
Muzzling those who call for state accountability is a cynical abuse of power. What should have received urgent attention from the State are allegations of police brutality.
The State has a duty of care to its citizens, and when there’s an incident that leads to speculation about possible police brutality, the State should reassure the public that it will investigate and hold any offender accountable, as was the case with the video of the woman seen cradling her child.
Zimbabwe’s constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression and the State must curtail its assault of this right. Over the past six months, Hopewell Chin’ono has been in and out of the courts and Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison on charges relating to his work as a journalist.
An attack on Chin’ono’s rights to freedom of expression limits the rights of citizens to know what is going on in the country. The response of the state should be to set the record straight, not to arrest or harass those who express themselves freely.
It is the responsibility of the State to ensure the safety of its citizens, and to guarantee the comfort and security of those it incarcerates. Images of Chin’ono and others in leg irons is meant to intimidate those who dare ask uncomfortable questions of the State.
Issued by Trevor Ncube 14/01/2021 Harare