Heal Zimbabwe condemns the arrest of journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono on 20 July 2020.According to Beatrice Mtetwa,the lawyer representing Chin’ono, the journalist was abducted from his home after eight state security agents broke the glass front door to gain access into his house. The state agents did not produce any warrant of arrest and refused to produce any identification documents. Before his arrest, Chin’ono recorded a moment of his arrest and from the video, some men could be heard harassing the journalist and directing him to put down his phone.
Chin’ono has been at the centre of exposing state corruption and on numerous occasions demanded transparency and accountability in the administration of public funds. Heal Zimbabwe notes that this strategy by government to arrests activists is not new as in the past the state has used arrests to intimidate and silence activists. Some of the activists who have been arrested and languished in prison include Heal Zimbabwe Director, and Rashid Mahiya, who in February 2019 was charged with plotting to overthrow President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government as defined in Section 22 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. This approach by government further sets government on a collision course with citizens who have been demanding an end to corruption especially within government. The arrest of Chin’ono came hours after police also arrested Transform Zimbabwe President, Jacob Ngarivhume, the convener of the 31 July 2020 demonstration against corruption. Heal Zimbabwe is gravely worried over these targeted arrests and views them as an attempt to quell voices of citizens in demanding transparency and accountability from the government.
In light of this, Heal Zimbabwe implores government to create a conducive environment for the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms that are exclusively provided for in the Bill of Rights (Chapter 4 of the constitution).The state must also demonstrate political will to adhere to principles of rule of law and democracy that outlaw the use of abductions. Added to this, government must also stop criminalising the work of activists as their contribution to the attainment of democracy in any given society is key.