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Tomana Ordered Arrest of Journalists – Minister

THE editor of the Zimbabwe Independent Vincent Kahiya and News Editor Constantine Chimakure were arrested on Monday on the orders of the Attorney-General, Johannes Tomana, a cabinet minister told parliament on Wednesday.

Giles Mutsekwa, the co-Minister of Home Affairs, told the House of Assembly that the arrest was effected without his knowledge  or that of Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri.

Asked by MDC-T MP for Kwekwe, Blessing Chebundo, if it was his ministry’s policy to arrest journalists for covering court proceedings that highlight matters of public interest, Mutsekwa said his ministry condemned the arrest and harassment of journalists.

Mutsekwa said he had spoken to Chihuri who denied involvement in the arrest of the journalists and said  he had since asked him to write a report on what happened.

He said it was not his ministry’s policy to arrest journalists going about their normal business.

Mutsekwa said: “You might probably be aware … that the Commissioner-General of the police who is under my ministry has made a public statement that he also disapproves of the arrest of journalists who are going on with their normal duties.

“However, in this particular incident, I want the nation to know that my ministry was not involved in giving instructions to arrest. I was also disgusted that these journalists (Kahiya and Chimakure) have been arrested.”

He said he approached Chihuri to find out what had transpired.

“The story I got from the Commissioner-General was that this particular instruction came through the Ministry of Justice and particularly sent by the Attorney—General. I had an occasion to discuss this issue with the Attorney—General yesterday (Tuesday) who admitted to having given the instruction to the police to incarcerate the journalists in question.

“I have asked the Commissioner-General to reduce this to writing so I can take it up with my colleague in the Ministry of Justice (Patrick Chinamasa pictured). I want to reiterate that it is not my ministry’s policy and I am also completely disgusted that this took place.”

National Constitutional Assembly chairperson Lovemore Madhuku last night said the Attorney-General has no powers to order the police to arrest anyone, adding if what Mutsekwa told parliament was true Tomana should be investigated for interfering with police work.

“In terms of the constitution, the Attorney-General has no power to instruct police to arrest anyone,” Madhuku said. “He is empowered to order the police Commissioner-General  to investigate the commission of any crime and report to him. The police should also not have executed the instruction.”

In terms of the constitution, the Attorney-General “may require the commissioner of police to investigate and report to him on any matter which, in the Attorney-General’s opinion, relates to any criminal offence or alleged or suspected criminal offence, and the commissioner of police shall comply with that requirement”.

Kahiya and Chimakure were arrested after presenting themselves at the Law and Order Section of Harare Central police station on Monday morning in the company of their lawyer, Innocent Chagonda.

They spent the night in custody before they were taken to court on Tuesday afternoon and granted a US$200 bail each, and ordered to report every Friday at the Law and Order office.

The duo was jointly charged with Zimind Publishers represented by finance director Michael Curling. The company was granted free bail.

Chagonda notified the court that he would on May 28 apply for refusal of further remand saying allegations against his clients were malicious.

After the court hearing, Chagonda told journalists: “We are very happy that they have been released because my clients believe this is just political harassment.”

Kahiya and Chimakure surrendered to the police after three police officers visited their offices last Saturday and Monday looking for them. – Staff Writer.

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