NEWSDAY deputy editor Nqaba Matshazi and reporter Xolisani Ncube were Thursday morning arrested by police detectives for allegedly “communicating or publishing false statement prejudicial to the State”.
The accusations arise out of a story published by the private daily on Wednesday claiming President Robert Mugabe’s government went behind everyone to pay bonuses to state security at the expense of the rest of the civil service which is yet to receive its 2015 bonuses.
The scribes were summoned to Harare’s CID Law and Order division where they were formally charged under the controversial Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
NewsDay editor Wisdom Mdzungairi said the two would be taken to court Friday.
“They are going to court tomorrow. They were not able to finalise what the CID were trying to finalise issues around their charges,” said Mdzungairi.
“They are in custody and it is highly likely that they are going to sleep over. At the moment they are still detained at Harare Central police.”
By late Thursday AMH – publishers of newspaper – lawyers were still battling to secure their release of the two scribes, who are set to appear in court Friday morning.
Media Institue of Southern Africa (Misa-Zimbabwe) chairman Kumbirai Mafunda slammed the police for blatant clampdown on free expression.
“It’s uncalled for and unjustified harassment of journalists. This is aimed to intimidate journalists from doing their legitimate work of informing citizens,” said Mafunda.
“There are other avenues to address grievances if anyone or any institution is aggrieved such as lodging a complaint with the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe rather than arrest and detain journalists.”
The arrest of the two scribes comes after Sunday Mail editor Mabasa Sasa, investigations editor Brian Chitema and reporter Tinashe Farawo were also in arrested in November last year for publishing a story which linked an unnamed senior police officers to an elephant poaching in Hwange National Park.
President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace have vowed to deal with the private media claiming that they had become hate groups that were blowing issues out of proportion.
“Journalists, don’t tell lies. Tell the truth. Ah, vaMugabe vazotya nhingi ah (Mugabe is scared of so and so)…you formulate stories so that people can buy your papers chete (only),’ Mugabe said at a luncheon last year.
“The journalism that we are experiencing today is not the journalism that we know.
“If we begin to take control now, people should not then cry foul. Vanyanya, manyanya (It’s too much. This is getting out of hand),” he added.
“Because you don’t share my politics and I don’t share your politics does not mean we should be enemies. You may criticise me when I’m wrong, sure, but do not give me sins I haven’t committed, thoughts I haven’t thought about.”