Over a hundred African writers have called on the African Union and SADC( Southern African Development Community), to end their silence and suspend Zimbabwe, following the arrest and detention of Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and activist Jacob Ngarivhume by the Zimbabwean authorities.
The two men were arrested on charges of inciting violence against Zimabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidency, and stirring up tensions in the country ahead of a planned demonstration against government corruption on 31 July.
A group of African writers have expressed strong displeasure over the continued detention of the two men, penning an open letter in protest.
Their letter is addressed to the chair of the African Union and the Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community, and they have made it available to readers of The Africa Report.
The full letter is published below:
The Letter Reads:
Dear African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Tax,
As writers and journalists of African origin who are connected beyond borders, we state that we condemn the acts of violence on the home of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono. We equally condemn his arrest and subsequent denial of bail.
On 20 July 2020, award-winning Zimbabwean investigative journalist Mr Chin’ono who had, a month before, exposed corruption in the coronavirus-related contracts awarded by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to Drax International, tweeted that uniformed police had been questioning his staff. On the same day, uniformed police raided Mr Chin’ono’s home and arrested him without a warrant. For hours, his whereabouts were unclear. It took the release of footage of the police breaking a glass door at his home and arresting him for the police to admit that they had taken him.
Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Information, outside their mandate, released a charge sheet of Mr Chin’ono’s arrest via their Twitter account. Despite Mr Chin’ono’s arrest on 20 July, the charge sheet was dated 21 July. Breaking Zimbabwe’s own laws which requires a person to go to court within 24 hours of arrest, Mr Chin’ono only appeared in court on unclear charges four days later and was denied bail until 7 August. In contrast, the former Minister of Health, Dr Obadiah Moyo, who approved the contracts that Mr Chin’ono exposed, was charged with criminal abuse of office and granted bail within 24 hours of his arrest. Dr Moyo remains free while Mr Chin’ono is in jail.
By arresting Hopewell Chin’ono arbitrarily, the Zimbabwean state has contravened the African Charter for Human Rights, in particular Article 6 and Article 14 which Zimbabwe signed and ratified.
We note with dismay the silence of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) at this gross violation of not only Mr Chin’ono’s human rights, but at this clear intimidation of freedom of the press.
We note too that this is not the first time that individual and press rights have been violated by an AU member state with silence from the mother body. The African Union, an organisation that was quick to tell the world that #BlackLivesMatter in the wake of George Floyd’ murder and other human rights abuses by police in the United States, seems strangely silent about the violation of Black Lives in Africa.
We fear that as long as Zimbabwe continues to violate its citizens’ rights with impunity, we and fellow writers and journalists are in danger of having our rights violated in the different AU member states while the mother body stays silent. An injury to a Zimbabwean journalist for doing their job by the Zimbabwean state thus becomes potential injury to us all by any rogue African government.
We ask that all decent human beings join us in being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. As they protest in Zimbabwe, we ask SADC, the AU and other international bodies to suspend Zimbabwe with immediate effect. We ask too that all countries that respect human and media rights cut all diplomatic ties with a country that respects none.
We demand, instead of keeping Mr Chin’ono arrested, that Zimbabwe prosecute the perpetrators in the Drax scandal, get back coronavirus funds and #FreeHopewellChin’onoNow.
Ama Atta Aidoo
d.bi young anitafrika
Ayesha Harruna Attah
Nana Awere Damoah
Philippa Yaa de Villiers
Chikè Frankie Edozien
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
Nozizwe Cynthia Jele
Nicole Magabo Kiggundu
Kwangu wa Liwewe
Nansubuga Jennifer Makumbi
Mukoma wa Ngugi
Dominic Brian Omondi
Daniel Muta Sango
Mongane Wally Serote
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma