Zim's Freedom of Expression under Threat As AG Threatens Crackdown on Editors

Tomana is said to have told the editors to either retract the story or face arrest and detention. The editors reportedly quaked in their boots and succumbed to the threats.

Sources said Tomana threatened to have the paper’s editors, the reporter who wrote the story, the company chief executive, Rapheal Khumalo and chairman, Trevor Ncube arrested.

“They quickly made arrangements to pacify Tomana,” said one source.

The paper reported last week Transparent International Zimbabwe (TIZ), an anti-corruption pressure group, had accused Tomana and senior officials in his department of corruption and gross abuse of office and called upon the relevant arms of government to investigate them.

The organisation cited four high-profile cases in which they alleged Tomana abused his authority to get suspects off the hook.

The cases, TIZ said, involved Mhondoro-Ngezi MP Bright Matonga, former acting medical superintendent for Bindura Provincial Hospital Beauty Basile, former Zupco chairman Charles Nherera and an alleged illegal gold dealer, Patrick Mavros.

But NewsDay in their Tuesday issue retracted the story claiming their investigations had revealed the cases were handled transparently.

NewsDay editor, Brian Mangwende, said: “We were made to question the mandate of the AG in terms of the mandate conferring Section 76 of the Constitution which we understand clearly puts beyond question the AG’s discretion around issues of prosecution and we would like to dissociate ourselves from the unconstitutional insinuations which are borne out of the document from TIZ.”

TIZ claimed in February 2006, Matonga, a former chief executive officer at Zupco, was charged with two counts of corruption involving US$10 000 and $150 000 but the matter was swept under the carpet.

Matonga, was also involved in a car accident which claimed the lives of three people and again the matter was never pursued.

The other matter involved Basile, then acting medical superintendent of Bindura Provincial Hospital who was facing 367 counts of criminal misconduct involving alleged embezzlement of 5 025 litres of diesel and 9 982 of petrol.

Her trial commenced in March 2009, with the testimony of eight witnesses including the permanent secretary in the Health ministry.

On the Nherera’s issue, TIZ claimed the AG had a hand in the quashing of his conviction. But in a spectacular climb down, the newspaper retracted the story saying the cases were dealt with in a “transparent manner”.