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Zimbabwe: Joint statement on arrest of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono

Ayesha Harruna Attah
By Ayesha Harruna Attah

Ghanaian-born fiction writer. Author of 'The Deep Blue Between' expected publication in 2020.

Chris Abani
By Chris Abani

Nigerian and American author

Zukiswa Wanner
By Zukiswa Wanner

South African journalist and novelist, born in Zambia and now based in Kenya. Founder of Afrolit Sans Frontieres Festival.

Posted on Thursday, 30 July 2020 17:40, updated on Friday, 31 July 2020 10:46

Hopewell Chin'ono, investigative journalist arrested on 20 July 2020 (Facebook/ Friends of Hopewell Chin'ono)

The arrest and detention by the Zimbabwean authorities of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and activist Jacob Ngarivhume on charges of inciting violence against Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidency have ratcheted up tensions in the country ahead of a planned demonstration against government corruption on 31 July. 

A group of African writers have penned an open letter to protest at the detention of Chin’ono, a writer and journalist.

Hopewell Chin’ono (Facebook/ Friends of Hopewell Chin’ono)

Their letter is addressed to the chair of the African Union and the Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community, and they have made it available to readers of The Africa Report.

The full letter is published below:

 

Moussa Faki Mahamat
The Chairperson
The Africa Union Commission
African Union Headquarters
P.O.Box 3243
Roosvelt Street W21K19
Addis Ababa
Ethiopia

Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax
The Executive Secretary
Southern Africa Development Community
SADC House
Post Bag 0095
Gaborone
Botswana

Dear Chairperson and Executive Secretary

As writers and journalists of African origin who are connected beyond borders, we we condemn the acts of violence on the home of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono. We equally condemn his arrest and subsequent denial of bail.

On 20 July 2020, award-winning Zimbabwean investigative journalist Mr Chin’ono who had, a month before, exposed corruption in the coronavirus-related contracts awarded by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to Drax International, tweeted that uniformed police had been questioning his staff.

On the same day, uniformed police raided Mr. Chin’ono’s home and arrested him without a warrant. For hours, his whereabouts were unclear. It took the release of footage of the police breaking a glass door at his home and arresting him for the police to admit that they had taken him.

Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Information, outside its mandate, released a charge sheet of Mr. Chin’ono’s  arrest via itsTwitter account.  Despite Mr. Chin’ono’s arrest on 20 July, the charge sheet was dated 21 July.

Breaking Zimbabwe’s own laws which requires a person to go to court within 24 hours of arrest,  Mr. Chin’ono  appeared in court on unclear charges four days later and was denied bail until 7 August.

In contrast, the former Minister of Health, Dr. Obadiah Moyo, who approved the contracts that Mr. Chin’ono exposed, was charged with criminal abuse of office and granted  bail within 24 hours of his arrest. Dr. Moyo remains free while Mr. Chin’ono is in jail.

By arresting Hopewell Chin’ono arbitrarily, the Zimbabwean state has contravened the African Charter for Human Rights, in particular  Article  6 and Article  14 which Zimbabwe signed and ratified.

We note with dismay the silence of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) at this gross violation of Mr. Chin’ono’s human rights and this attempted intimidation and violation of the freedom of the press.

We note too that this is not the first time that individual and press rights have been violated by an AU member state with silence from the mother body.

The African  Union, an organisation  that was quick to tell the world that #BlackLivesMatter in the wake of George Floyd’ murder and other human rights abuses  by police in the United States, seems strangely silent about the violation of Black Lives in Africa.

We fear that as long as Zimbabwe continues to violate its citizens’ rights with impunity, we and fellow writers and journalists are in danger of having our rights violated in the different AU member states while the mother body stays silent.

An injury to a Zimbabwean journalist for doing their job by the Zimbabwean state thus becomes potential injury to us all by any rogue African government.

We ask that all decent human beings join us in being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. As they protest in Zimbabwe,  we ask SADC, the AU and other international bodies to suspend Zimbabwe with immediate effect. We ask too that all countries that respect human and media rights cut all diplomatic ties with a country that respects none.

We demand, instead of keeping Mr. Chin’ono in detention, that the Zimbabwean authorities should prosecute the perpetrators in the Drax scandal and get back coronavirus funds. #FreeHopewellChin’onoNow

Signed

Chris Abani

Leila Aboulela

Leye Adenle

Bisi Adjapon

Ama Atta Aidoo

Dami Ajayi

Kofi Akpabli

Richard Ali

d.bi young anitafrika

Barbara Angopa

Ayesha Harruna Attah

Ishmael Beah

TJ Benson

Nikiwe Bikitsha

Malungile Booi

Jessemusse Cacinda

Maxine Case

Efemia Chela

Panashe Chigumadzi

Shadreck Chikoti

Lynsey Chutel

Justin Clement

Nana Awere Damoah

Tolu Daniel

CA Davids

Nadia Davids

Philippa Yaa de Villiers

Bazukile Diko

Dilman Dila

Raoul Djimeli

Edwige Dro

Ekow Duker

Chikè Frankie Edozien

Mona Eltahawy

Kalaf Epalanga

Virgilia Ferrão

Paula Fray

Macharia Gaitho

Xolisa  Guzula

Anton Harber

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

Eghosa Imasuen

Nozizwe Cynthia Jele

Nyasha Kadandara

Mubanga Kalimamukwento

Aryan Karganof

Caiphus Kgosana

Sihle Khumalo

Nicole Magabo Kiggundu

Mandla Langa

Kinna Likimani

Kwangu wa Liwewe

Max Lobe

Siphiwo Mahala

Angela Makholwa

Nansubuga Jennifer Makumbi

Makwena  Manamela

Napo Masheane

Mohale Mashigo

Mel Matsinhe

Makanaka Mavengere

Nokuthula Mazibuko

Eusebius McKaiser

Zakes Mda

Maaza Mengiste

Ruona  Meyer

Thando Mgqolozana

Niq Mhlongo

Gcina  Mhlope

Lerato Mogoathle

Lebohang Mojapelo

T.O. Molefe

Yara Monteiro

William Moore

Ntshepeng Motema

Sisonke Msimang

Sihle Mthembu

Lindelwa Mtongana

Merdi Mukore

Dumisani Mulenga

Danai Mupotsa

James Murua

Neo Musangi

Tinashe Mushakavanhu

Sitawa Namwalie

Japhet Ncube

Njabulo Ndebele

Mumbo Nduati

Rémy Ngamije

Thembelani Ngenelwa

Kagayi Ngobi

Mukoma wa Ngugi

Masande Ntshanga

Josh Nyapimbi

Natasha Omokhodion-Banda

Dominic Brian Omondi

Yewande Omotoso

Ondjaki

Troy Onyango

Tochi Onyebuchi

Daniel Muta Sango

Mongane Wally Serote

Elma Shaw

Lamelle Shaw

Lola Shoneyin

Veronique Tadjo

Nokuthula Tshabalala

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

Kola Tubosun

Louise Umutoni

Molara Wood

Zukiswa Wanner

 2020 Goethe Medaille Recipient

“…the highest gift that man has is art, and I am audacious enough to think myself as an artist…” – Lorraine Hansberry

 

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