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July 31 Protest Organizer, Investigative Journalist Facing Charges of Inciting Public Violence

FILE: Zimbabwe journalist Hopewell Chino'ono, center, smiles during the launch of his documentary, State of Mind, in Harare, Oct. 10, 2018.

Police say arrested Tranform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume and investigating journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, are facing charges of inciting public violence.

In a statement, police spokesperson, Paul Nyathi, said Ngarivhume and Chin’ono, who are in police custody, are expected to appear in court soon.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police confirms that Jacob Ngarivhume of Transform Zimbabwe and Hopewell Chin’ono have been arrested in connection with allegations of contravening Section 187 (1) (a) as read with section 37 (1) (a) (i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23, “incitement to participate in public violence.”

Section 187 (1)(a) stipulates that “any person who, in any manner, communicates with another person intending by the communication to persuade or induce the other person to commit a crime, whether in terms of this Code or any other enactment; or realising that there is a real risk or possibility that the other person may be persuaded or induced by the communication to commit a crime, whether in terms of this Code or any other enactment; shall be guilty of incitement to commit the crime concerned.”

Section 37 subsection (1)(a)(1) also stipulates that “any person who acts together with one or more other persons present with him or her in any place or at any meeting with the intention or realising that there is a real risk or possibility of forcibly disturbing the peace, security or order of the public or any section of the public shall be guilty of participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, a breach of the peace or bigotry, as the case may be, and be liable to a fine not exceeding level ten or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or both.

“The crime of participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, a breach of the peace or bigotry is committed whether the action constituting it is spontaneous or planned in advance, and whether the place or meeting where it occurred is public or private.”

According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the law enforcement agents alleged that Chin’ono, who is represented by Beatrice Mtetwa, Gift Mtisi and Douglas Coltart of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), allegedly posted various messages on his Twitter account using the handle @daddyhope between May 2020 and July 2020 calling upon Zimbabweans across the country to engage in acts of public violence against the government on 31 July 2020.

The journalist allegedly posted several messages on Twitter which read; “@Ngarivhume and many others have come to put their hands up and said they will lead anti-looting demo on 31 July”, “Zimbabwe will never be free from looters through elections it is just a waste of time” and “If you feel like shouting#zanuPFMustGo and Mnangagwa and his regime has failed, how they will go will be determined by history and yet Mnangagwa refuses change will come by any means.”

ZRP members alleged that by posting such messages Chin’ono intended to disturb the peace, security or order of the public.

The law enforcement agents also raided Chin’ono’s residence late on Monday evening looking for some gadgets, including laptops and mobile phone handsets.

Ngarivhume, who is represented by Moses Nkomo of ZLHR, allegedly incited Zimbabweans to revolt against President Mnangagwa.

Ngarivhume posted a message on twitter a few hours before he was arrested saying, “When I proposed a national demonstration I knew the risks. But it is sickening for the state to pretend to care about COVID 19 lives yet send me messages threatening to kill me and my family.”

Chin’ono posted a video on his twitter feed claiming that he was being arrested. He posted a message before shooting the video, which read, “They are breaking into my home. Alert the world!”

In a tweet, Information Secretary, Nick Mangwana, said journalists are supposed to follow the country’s laws.

“There is no profession which is above the law. Journalists are not above the law. Lawyers are not above the law. Doctors and nurses are not above the law. Politicians & bankers are not above the law. Anyone suspected to have commited a crime should be subjected to due process.”

In separate tweets, the United States Embassy-Harare and Dutch High Commission expressed concern over the arrest of the two men.

“We have learned @PoliceZimbabwe officials are at Hopwell Chin’ono’s home now and are deeply concerned for his welfare. #ProtectJournalists,” read the USA Embassy tweet posted early Monday morning.

In its tweet, the Dutch Embassy urged Zimbabwean authorities to allow journalists to operate freely in the country.

“Allowing journalists to do their work is vital in the fight against corruption. The arrest of @daddyhope today is part of a worrying trend against free speech in #Zimbabwe. @edmnangagwa @MinisterSBMoyo @PoliceZimbabwe #FreeHope.”