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2011: Remembered for media onslaught

The stage was set with the arrest last year of the editor, Nevanji Madanhire and reporter Nqobani Ndlovu on charges of criminal defamation.
It was in reaction to a story written by Ndlovu about the postponement police examinations and the recalling of former war veteran officers back into the force.

 

Ndlovu had to endure nine nights in detention, by no means an easy feat.

Prosecutors invoked Section 121 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on the guise that they wanted to investigate further but bizarrely, did not oppose bail, when the case was brought before the High Court.

Madanhire on the other hand spent one night at Rhodesville Police Station, also facing the same charges.

It later turned out the story was true and exams were written a few months later. The constitutionality of the criminal defamation law has since been challenged and the case is pending before the Supreme Court.

However, this has not stopped the police from continuously charging journalists under this section of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
While we might have thought that the worst was over with the detention of Madanhire and Ndlovu, the police were back at the offices, this time for Madanhire and Patience Nyangove.

The two were charged with criminally defaming a police officer, Chrispen Makedenge, over a story involving the arrest of Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jameson Timba.

The case is still pending before the magistrates’ court, with the trial set for January 20.
Makedenge said he had been criminally defamed by being referred to as “notorious”.

In July, all hell broke loose in parliament over disagreements on the Human Rights Bill and journalists were again at the receiving end.

The Standard’s reporter Nqaba Matshazi and Levi Mukarati, then with the Financial Gazette, were at the receiving end of vicious attacks by Zanu PF supporters who accused them of writing falsehoods.

Photographer, Aaron Ufumeli was also roughed up outside parliament, with the hooligans threatening to grab his camera.

The brutality of the attack was worsened by the fact that it happened in parliament, a sacred place which all and sundry are supposed to respect.
Strangely, none of those assailants have been arrested even when they are well-known.

Madanhire and Matshazi were once again in trouble with the law after they were arrested for allegedly stealing documents from Green Card Medical Aid Society, they denied this charge and it has since been dropped before plea.

They, however, face charges of criminally defaming the owner of the medical aid society, although indications are that these may be dropped too formally next month.

But this was not before the two were dragged to police cells, where they spent the night as guests of the State.
They were granted US$100 bail and had their passports taken as surety that they would not leave the country.

Their celebrations of freedom were however, short-lived as the police pried ready to pounce and the very next day were preparing to charge Madanhire and Matshazi with criminal defamation once again.

The charges arose over a story where farmers in Beitbridge claimed they were involved in a long-running land battle with Home Affairs co-minister, Kembo Mohadi. The two have since signed warned and cautioned statements.

The editor of our sister paper, The Zimbabwe Independent, Constantine Chimakure and reporter Wongai Zhangazha were also summoned by the police, facing charges of contravening the Official Secrets Act over leaked documents involving Youth Development and Indigenisation minister, Saviour Kasukuwere.

To cap off a horrible year for the media, Daily News reporter, Xolisani Ncube and his editor Stanley Gama, were briefly detained by the police again facing criminal defamation charges, this time over a story where Local Government, Urban and Rural Development minister, Ignatious Chombo is said to have bragged over his wealth.

Commeting on the continued persecution, Madanhire said, “We-’ll continue to protect the weak from the powerful. All cases we’re involved in are about the powerful trampling upon the weak.”

It is no secret that Zanu PF was pushing for elections last year and polls in this country usually come with an escalation of brutality on the media.

There was a brief lull in the persecution of the media, with the GPA highlighting that press freedom was one of its cornerstone, but it seems that this was only the calm before the storm.

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