Those wishing Zimbabwe ill are twisting the recent arrest by police and subsequent remand of Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume for their own ends, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo told Heads of African Diplomatic Missions in Zimbabwe yesterday.
“The last few days have, once again, seen an inordinate amount of international diplomatic and media attention being focused on Zimbabwe, with waves of criticism and condemnation rolling in from the usual Western sources, subsequently joined by international pressure groups and the usual array of civil society formations which draw their funding and policy-orientation from those very same sources.
“The origins of this latest onslaught of Western denigration lies, of course, in the recent arrest and remand of Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume — both of whom are facing serious allegations of incitement to violence and criminal abuse of social media platforms to actively encourage Zimbabweans to violently rise up against their democratically-elected Government in the form of a purported coordinated display of citizen’s anger over corruption,” said the minister. “In essence and notwithstanding the ‘corruption’ angle propagated by these two individuals and their Western sponsors, the ‘call-to-action’ campaign they have been fronting actually has nothing at all to do with corruption.
“Theirs is a far more sinister agenda, orchestrated largely by external players deeply hostile to this Administration and who have found, in these two — and indeed others — willing puppets, prepared to provoke violent confrontation, to endanger lives, all in the name of undermining the credibility and legitimacy of this Government, subverting the peace and stability we all enjoy — our multiple challenges notwithstanding — and providing ‘justification’ for yet further Western punishment and sanctions upon our already hard-pressed people.”
Minister Moyo said July 31 had been chosen as the second anniversary of the 2018 election. “Whatever happens in the streets of Harare on that date will reflect in the global media on August 1 — the second anniversary of the tragic post-election violence, itself the direct consequence of reckless incitement to insurrection by an irresponsible, uncaring opposition.”
The date was also meant to coincide with the opposition’s extraordinary congress that was ordered by the Supreme Court.
The planned demo was “a clear and deliberate manoeuvre by evidently desperate elements within the opposition and their Western sponsors, to subvert that democratic process”. There were also a series of Sadc virtual meetings in the week from July 31, said the minister and noted that such activity was generally planned to coincide with international occasions to embarrass the Government and increase Western pressure and “punishment”. “We have long been aware of their machinations and the extraordinary lengths they and those behind them are prepared to go to unseat our democratically-elected Government. They will never succeed.
Classifying the arrests as “abductions” and, “with specific regard to Chin’ono, as the action of a vindictive Government seeking retribution against a ‘courageous’ journalist for daring to expose high-level corruption within Zimbabwe, our Western critics have deliberately misrepresented the facts, and have sought to deflect attention away from the subversive and highly irresponsible activities of both Chin’ono and Ngarivhume.”
The minister noted that neither man was “abducted”, both being lawfully detained by the police. Neither was arrested for exposing or focusing on corruption and the charges they face have nothing to do with their reporting of corruption.
“The charges against both men,” said the minister, derive from their wilful, relentless and highly irresponsible incitement to violent popular insurrection, from their cynical exhortation of the public to defy the Covid-19 lockdown regulations regardless of the very real dangers such a mass gathering would certainly present for any and all who might respond to their exhortations.”
Chin’ono was neither the first nor the only Zimbabwean journalist to have focused attention on the scourge of corruption “which, sadly, has entrenched itself within our society”.
President Mnangagwa had already made it clear there was to be zero tolerance to corruption and had defined the Government’s commitment to clean Government. “His seriousness of intent has been amply demonstrated over the past several months with two serving Cabinet ministers arrested and charged, one former Cabinet minister in prison and a host of senior officials and State entity managers either already incarcerated or facing a variety of corruption-related charges.
“Even a cursory review of our media over the past two years or so will confirm consistent, indeed persistent focus, by multiple investigative journalists and commentators, on the scourge of corruption.
“The NSSA scandal — which cost Minister Mupfumira her job; the vehicle-scandal which cost Mr Tapfuma his job and liberty; the procurement scandal which cost former Minister Undenge his liberty; and the current Covid-related procurement scandal which has cost Minister Obadiah Moyo his job, have all been extensively reported upon, by State and private media alike. Not a single journalist has been arrested or charged for practising their profession in any one of these and, in fact, a multiplicity of other high-profile cases of evident or suspected criminality,” said Minister Moyo.
There was nothing special about Chin’ono’s reporting and he did not break the procurement scandal on Covid-19 material. Law enforcement and other agencies were already investigating clear indications of “malfeasance in respect of the procurement of medical equipment and supplies to combat Covid-19”.
International police and intelligence co-operation helped to unravel the insidious, conspiratorial nature of that malfeasance and the deliberate foreign-inspired machinations which lay at its root.
“Wittingly or unwittingly, Chin’ono and Ngarivhume have lent themselves to that foreign agenda. They have been exposed and will now have to explain and account for their errant behaviour in a court of law.
The minister reminded the diplomats that there had been a recent mischaracterisation of Zimbabwe as “an adversary” of the United States. “Whereas we accept that this was undoubtedly a slip, our history has nevertheless taught us to be vigilant, and has illustrated the extent to which some big powers are prepared to go to deal with those which, for whatever reason, they view as ‘adversaries’.”