By Kumbirai Mafunda
Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition Transform Zimbabwe party leader Jacob Ngarivhume on Wednesday 22 July 2020 appeared before judicial officers at Harare Magistrates Court answering to charges of inciting people to overthrow President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government through unconstitutional means.
Chin’ono appeared before Magistrate Ngoni Nduna answering to charges of incitement to commit public violence as defined in 187(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act as read with section 36(1)(a) of Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
Chin’ono, who was arrested on Monday 20 July 2020 by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) members, was also charged with incitement to commit public violence as defined in section 187(1)(b) as read with section 36(1)(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and alternatively incitement to participate in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry as defined in section 37(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
Prosecutor Whisper Mabhaudhi also accused Chin’ono of incitement to commit public violence as defined in section 187(1)(b) as read with section 36(1)(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
Mabhaudhi told Magistrate Nduna that Chin’ono, who is represented by Beatrice Mtetwa, Gift Mtisi and Douglas Coltart of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), allegedly posted various messages on his Twitter account using the handle @daddyhope during the period between 1 March 2020 to 20 July 2020 calling upon Zimbabweans across the country to engage in acts of public violence against the government on 31 July 2020.
The journalist allegedly posted several messages on Twitter which read; “@Ngarivhume and many others have come to put their hands up and said they will lead anti-looting demo on 31 July”, “That is the power of engaging with others! So from now on he says it will be the #July31.
“Zimbabwe will NEVER be free from LOOTERS through elections, it is just a waste of time. They will rig elections, and of you go to court, their judiciary LOOTOOTING partners will be waiting for you. “Change will come by any means.”
Mabhaudhi charged that by posting such messages Chin’ono intended to disturb the peace, security or order of the public.
On Tuesday 21 July 2020, ZRP members confiscated a camera belonging to Chin’ono after they obtained a warrant of search and seizure granted by Harare Magistrate Judith Taruvinga authorising them to conduct a search at the award-winning journalist’s residence in Harare for cameras, articles or documents which he allegedly used in committing the offence.
Chin’ono’s lawyers told Magistrate Nduna that the journalist and Ngarivhume were taken out of their cells on Tuesday 21 July 2020 at 4:am at Harare Central Police Station by an unidentified woman who “profiled” them. The lawyers charged that the Investigating Officer and detectives at Law and Order Section at Harare Central Police Station were not aware of the woman who interviewed Chin’ono and Ngarivhume at an ungodly hour.
The lawyers also complained about the malicious damage to Chin’ono’s property at his residence, where some police officers broke one of his glass panels as they forced their way to arrest him.
Magistrate Nduna ordered the State to conduct investigations into the complaints tabled in court by Chin’ono’s lawyers and furnish the court with a report within three days.
On Thursday 23 July 2020, Magistrate Nduna will continue with the bail hearing for Chin’ono at 8:30 am.
Meanwhile, Magistrate Trynos Utahwashe will on Thursday 23 July 2020 hand down his ruling on a bail application filed by Ngarivhume’s lawyer Moses Nkomo.
Ngarivhume was also arrested on Monday 20 July 2020 by ZRP members and faces similar charges as Chin’ono of inciting Zimbabweans to revolt against President Mnangagwa and had his house searched by law enforcement agents on Tuesday 21 July 2020.