Police in Harare on Thursday arrested local daily Newsday newspaper deputy editor Nqaba Matshazi, journalist Xolisani Ncube and a representative of their company, Alpha Media Holdings, Sifikile Thabete for allegedly writing falsehoods.
The three staffers, who are represented by lawyer Taona Nyamakura, are facing allegations of “communicating or publishing false statement prejudicial to the state” over a story in the newspaper’s Wednesday’s edition titled ‘CIO secretly gets bonuses’.
They are charged with contravening Section 31 (1) (ii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. Government has been struggling to pay salaries and bonuses for its 550,000-strong workforce but it is known to prioritize the security sector.
Nyamakura said his clients will spend the night in detention.
Efforts to get a comment from the police were futile as police spokesman Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi was not responding to calls made by VOA Studio 7.
Secretary general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, Foster Dongozi, condemned the police for the arrests. "Obviously that is concerning to us, that just 7 days into the new year, two journalist are spending the night in police detention. Another correspondent from the Herald newspaper was also beaten up in Chitungwiza while covering riots in the town on Tuesday. So for us really, that is a very bad start to the year."
In Chitungwiza, meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is reporting that its member lawyer, Kennedy Masiye, is representing three juveniles Lizbert Mutero aged 15 years and a Form 2 student at Mutero High School in Masvingo, Takudzwa Chirwadzimba aged 16 years, a Form Four student at Zengeza 2 High School and Simbarashe Nkwezaramba aged 19 years, who were arrested by police officers on Tuesday and charged with contravening Section 36 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 for allegedly committing public violence.
The trio was arrested together with 40 other residents of Chitungwiza. Masiye said, ''the two juveniles were released on free bail, but all the other detainees paid $50 bail. The trial date is 21 January."
The state had opposed the granting of bail to the accused. But Masiye argued that the reasons advanced by the state in opposing bail such as the fear that accused person could incite other people to demonstrate against the Chitungwiza municipality and they could abscond because of the "gravity of the offense" were not convincing as insinuated by the constitution that an accused person can only be denied bail if there are compelling reasons to do so.