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Is Hopewell a scribe or activist?

16 Aug 2020 at 16:10hrs | Views
SINCE the arrest of journalist, Hopewell Chin'ono last month, Zimbabwe has witnessed an overflow of copious amounts of social media vitriol being freely splashed around against President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Government.

The narrative which is being spread is that Chin'ono was arrested for allegedly exposing the Drax International Covid-19 procurement case in which the company overcharged Government for supplies such as face masks. Others also add that he was targeted for criticising Government. However, for the record: Chin'ono was arrested for inciting violence.

In the eyes of some local anti-Government elements, Chin'ono is being targeted and victimised. They firmly but erroneously believe that his tweets encouraging Zimbabweans to protest against ostensibly corruption as espoused by another anti-Government element and Transform Zimbabwe leader, Jacob Ngarivhume did not constitute a crime. The reason: everyone is doing it. Wrong. It is not about the prevalence of the unlawful habit but about what the law says about it.

The activist journalist
The argument that Chin'ono is being persecuted by prosecution stands on thin and very rickety legs. Over the past few weeks the Johannesburg-based International Crisis Group Southern Africa Programme Director, Piers Pigou told Aljazeera during an episode of its Inside Story programme that Chin'ono was an "activist journalist."

The question that readily comes to mind is whether or not one can be a journalist and an activist at the same time. Journalism requires one to be impartial and balanced in the way that scribes go about one's work. Being an activist means being mentally and emotionally invested in an issue or cause. How on earth can one be an award-winning journalist and be an activist at the same time unless his trade is about pursuing a "cause" such as undermining President Mnangagwa's Government as he does?

The President has never hidden his abhorrence for corruption. Why then would he target for prosecution an anti-graft soldier on his side?

Why would Chin'ono, of all corruption reporters, be singled out for arrest? Other such journalists include Elias Mambo of Zim Morning Post who is blazing a trail in exposing corruption at institution like the City of Harare and Zesa Holding among others. The question on many people's minds is: Why has Elias not been arrested? The reason is because Mambo is exposing corruption no more, no less. He is not trying to be the journalist, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Judiciary all rolled into one as is the case with Chin'ono. A journalist's role in fighting corruption are investigating and exposing. Other stakeholders such as Zacc and ZRP then take over.

When a journalist goes beyond exposing graft to prescribe a "solution" such as protesting on streets amid a peak in Covid-19 infections figures, he becomes an activist, opposition player and criminal. And Pigou was right. When a journalist goes beyond the call of his vocation to push for the breaking of laws and exposing people to a pandemic, he invites the interest of law enforcement agents. Even his friend and former Cabinet minister, Bright Matonga told Aljazeera that Chin'ono "went overboard." This is why he, out of all Zimbabwean journalists, was arrested for inciting violence. This is why his (Chin'ono's) claim that "journalism has been criminalised" and the narrative that freedom of expression is under siege in Zimbabwe are hogwash.

The law
According to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, any person who publishes or communicates a statement which is wholly or materially false, and which statement incites or promotes or is likely to incite or promote public disorder, public violence or endangers public safety commits a crime. If convicted, such people could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. Some have argued that Chin'ono's arrest was wrongful because what he incited for did not happen. The crime is not about the whether or not what an incitement suspect advocated occurred. It is about the intent.

It would not make sense for the police to wait for the outcome of Chin'ono and Ngarivhume's activities before arresting them. It would not make sense to wait for the mindless violence, destruction and anarchy that attends protest which involve MDC Alliance merchants of violence such as Job Sikhala before arresting the two. That the law enforcement agents thwarted the planned protests does not absolve the two anti-Government elements from prosecution.

Apart from inciting people to a protest some of whose key supporters have unleashed violence on innocent citizens each time they staged a demonstration since 2016, Chin'ono and Ngarivhume were urging people to breach Section 5 of Statutory Instrument 136 of 2020 on Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (Amendment) Order, 2020 (No. 10) which outlaws gatherings beyond 50 people.

Covid-19 political warfare
On 31 March, the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe delivered a ruling in which the court adjudged MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa's ascendancy to his party's apex position in February 2018 to be irregular. Since that time, the opposition and other detractors of Government have been pushing a baseless narrative that Government is weaponising the coronavirus measures to deal with the opposition. But nothing is further from the truth. On the contrary, it is the opposition which has been seeking to score cheap political points and wring non-existent political mileage out of life endangering stunts such as gatherings at a time that the pandemic is at its peak.

It is not Government which gathered a crowd of MDC-Alliance members in Warren Park on 13 May where MDC female activists, Cecilia Chimbiri, Joanna Mamombe and Netsai Marowa were the leaders. Yes, the country is facing a number of challenges but did this warrant exposing youths to the coronavirus by bringing them out to complain that people staying home under lockdown did not have food? Right from the beginning of the lockdown, Government has never barred anyone from going out to buy food. This is the reason why retail outlets and markets have been allowed to remain open. In this scenario, who between Government and the opposition used the lockdown situation to fight the other? If the participants were all infected by the virus, the opposition would be at the forefront of blaming Government for the resultant situation.

As if the 13 May incident was not enough, Chin'ono and Ngarivhume were also pushing for the same breaking of the Covid-19 regulations in the name of fighting corruption. If the country, like other nations, is fighting corruption, is pushing people onto the streets in the name of the right to protest not abusing the pandemic to fight government?

When one closely examines the narratives and agendas being pushed by the Chimbiris, Mamombes, Marowas, Chin'onos, Sikhalas, Ngarivhumes, Chamisas of this country, one thing comes out clearly. We have among us people who in their fight against their political opponent, Zanu-PF have reduced themselves to fighters of their own country and nation. They stand ready to sacrifice their own people to a pandemic to score cheap political points. They have become haters of their own people and country as well as themselves in the name of fighting Zanu-PF. This is what Zimbabweans who are fighting in Chin'ono and Ngarivhume's corner using the social media should know.

Source - sundaynews
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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