A member of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) and media proprietor Trevor Ncube has castigated the state for arresting the MDC Alliance duo of Advocate Fadzayi Mahere, Zengeza West legislator Job Sikhala as well as journalist Hopewell Chin’ono on a charge he said was annulled by the Constitutional Court in 2014.
The three were arrested separately on charges of communicating falsehoods following tweets that alleged police had beaten an infant to death while enforcing Covid-19 lockdown rules last week. The police later issued a statement refuting the claims.
In a statement Thursday, Ncube said the trio’s arrest is an attack on freedom of expression by the State.
“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 their 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,” said Ncube.
He said instead of arresting the three the State should have focused on allegations of police brutality.
“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 an offender accountable, as was the case with the video of the woman seen cradling her child,” he said.
Ncube said the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression and the State must restrain its assault on the right.
“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 their 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.” Ncube said.
The three arguing that they are being charged under a section that is unconstitutional as it was struck off by the Constitutional Court in July 2014.
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