Zim journalist, MDC leaders denied access to lawyers

Hopewell Chin’ono. Picture: Twitter

Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, opposition MDC leader Sikhala and party spokesman Mahere, were arrested on charges relating to “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state” arising from a Twitter post.

Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, as well as MDC leaders Job Sikhala and Fadzayi Mahere are being denied access to their lawyers, their lawyer Dave Coltart said on social media on Sunday.

They were denied access to their lawyers and their own food, to which they’re entitled as unconvicted prisoners, Coltart tweeted.

“Prison authorities are defying a court order we previously obtained on this issue the last time it happened.”

Amnesty International has renewed calls for the trio’s unconditional release.

Political analysts have hit out at President Emmerson Mnagangwa’s government as “a paranoid, overreacting state”.

Chin’ono, opposition MDC leader Sikhala and party spokesman Mahere, were arrested on charges relating to “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state” arising from a Twitter post.

After spending a week at the Chikurubi Prison in Harare, a Zimbabwean court denied Chin’ono bail on Thursday.

Citing two previous cases, the magistrate ruled Chin’ono could commit “similar crimes” if released on bail.

Dr Ibbo Mandaza, head of external relations of the National Convergence Platform, said the latest clampdown reflected “a
paranoid state”.

Independent political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga said: “Zimbabwe is doing all this – clamping down on journalists and the opposition – because they know they can get away with it.

“Within the SADC (Southern African Development Community), there seems to be no recourse on this.

“Despite having political and economic leverage, SA seems unwilling to address human rights violations in Zimbabwe.

“South Africa will not intervene meaningfully because the governing party has its own domestic challenges, which Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe always point to.”

University of Pretoria political lecturer Roland Henwood described the Zimbabwean government as “overreacting to whatever may be different to them”.

“The ongoing repression of the opposition and the media is indicative of the fear of the ruling elite.

“Lack of a response from SA, underlines the business-as-usual approach – a complete lack of a principled foreign policy position,” said Henwood.

Amnesty International deputy director for Southern Africa, Muleya Mwananyanda, urged Zimbabwean authorities to “stop treating human rights with contempt and start tolerating dissenting views”.

– brians@citizen.co.za

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