Zimbabwean journalist and lawyer bump heads with state yet again

Chin’ono talks to his lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa in court on Monday, 9 November 2020. (Photo: Frank Chikowore)

Detained Zimbabwean journalist and documentary filmmaker Hopewell Chin’ono will spend more time behind bars after a Harare magistrate dismissed his application for refusal of remand on fresh charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

Hopewell Chin’ono, who recently spent six weeks in remand prison for allegedly inciting Zimbabweans to revolt against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, was re-arrested last week after a tweeted comment about the arrest of Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya. Rushwaya is facing charges of attempting to smuggle six kilograms of gold to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

On Tuesday this week, Harare magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa ruled that there was a nexus between Chin’ono’s Twitter post and the commission of the offence by the well-known journalist, who refused to name his sources in court, citing journalistic ethics and privileges.

“The tweet was prejudicial to Rushwaya’s case before the court and the facts show that the accused committed the offence in person and therefore he should be placed on remand,” ruled Gofa.

After the ruling effectively placed Chin’ono on remand, the prosecution called its first witness, Detective Inspector Naison Chirape, who under cross examination conceded that Chin’ono was being held in custody for telling the truth – Chin’ono had correctly revealed that Rushwaya was going to be granted bail by the magistrate’s court.

The prosecution later withdrew this concession, citing fresh evidence having arisen.

The prosecution then sought a postponement to Wednesday — granted by the magistrate — based on the argument that there was no transport to ferry its team home. This drew criticism from Chin’ono’s lead defence attorney, Beatrice Mtetwa, who told the prosecution that had it not been for corruption in the prosecutorial department all prosecutors would have managed to buy vehicles.

This altercation prompted Gofa to invite the defence and the prosecution to present themselves before her in her chambers. Mtetwa told reporters later that she had had to apologise to the magistrate for her outburst.

Meanwhile, another magistrate, Ngoni Nduna, has refused to recuse himself in an application in which Chin’ono accused the magistrate of being “biased”. In that case, Chin’ono stands accused of inciting Zimbabweans to stage mass protests against the Mnangagwa administration. He will stand trial on that charge on 7 December. Daily Marverick