The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) is deeply concerned about the clampdown on expression and peaceful assembly in Zimbabwe following the arrests of investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume
We are concerned by the arrest of investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono who has been at the forefront of investigating and writing on government corruption related to the allocation of resources to the Covid-19 pandemic management in Zimbabwe. This investigation led to several arrests, including that of the former health minister. His arrest followed an expression of support via Twitter for an anti-corruption protest which was planned for the 31st July. Opposition leader, Jacob Ngarivhume, one of the organisers of the march, was also arrested. Both have been charged with incitement to participate in public violence. They have both appeared in court and were denied bail on the 24th and 23rd July, respectively.
SALC is outraged at the arrests and manner of prosecution, which fly in the face of Constitutional provisions in Zimbabwe that guarantee the right to freedom of expression, assembly and the right to demonstrate which means that people have the right to protest peacefully and hold public representatives accountable. The prosecution of a journalist for public expression challenging government actions and corruption has a chilling effect on freedom of expression and the ability of individuals to hold state institutions and representatives accountable.
Equally, the suppression of peaceful dissent by the arrest of opposition officials for expressing their right to peacefully protest government or public representative actions is inimical to a democratic society based on the rule of law and human rights. We remind the government of Zimbabwe of its duties to uphold the rights of their citizens as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, particularly:
Section 61 providing for freedom of expression and the right of a journalist to practice his profession which includes the right to seek, receive and communicate information, by individuals and members of the media.
Sections 58 and 59 guaranteeing the right to peaceful assembly and the right of the people of Zimbabwe to challenge government policies through demonstrations and petitions.
We also remind the government of its international obligations as enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9 of African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the African Union Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa that reaffirm the importance of freedom of expression as a fundamental human right for public transparency and accountability
We call upon the Zimbabwe government to drop all charges against both Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume and to release them forthwith. We also call upon the Zimbabwe government to guarantee the rights of Zimbabweans to peaceful protest, expression and assembly.