The Sunday Mail
Sunday Mail Reporters
THE arrest of political activists Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume last week, was a pre-emptive move by authorities to quell a potentially violent foreign-funded insurrection meant to destabilise the country and unconstitutionally topple the Government, a Cabinet minister said yesterday.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told a Press conference in Harare that the Government would not sanction demonstrations planned for July 31, in the interest of public health and in line with both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Covid-19 national lockdown regulations.
She said Chin’ono and Ngarivhume were arrested for inciting violence and not for exposing corruption as is being alleged by some Western countries.
Authorities, the minister said, had uncovered a plot by foreign powers led by the United States Embassy in Harare to promote anarchy under the guise of “peaceful demonstrations”.
Setting the record straight on the arrest of Chin’ono and Ngarivhume and their subsequent appearance in court, Minister Mutsvangwa said there were deliberate attempts to misrepresent the reasons behind the pair’s arrest.
“We have noted with dismay, a well-coordinated local and international misinformation, and disinformation media campaign where the duo are said to have been arrested for supposedly exposing alleged corruption cases in Government.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Hopewell Chin’ono was not abducted. He was lawfully arrested by the Zimbabwe Republic Police. And he was not arrested for exposing corruption. He was arrested for using his social media accounts to incite Zimbabweans to violently overthrow the Government.”
Minister Mutsvangwa took a swipe at the US government, saying the stance it had taken in defending Chin’ono in particular, was curious.
“The role of foreign powers in this plot to instigate an illegal regime change in Zimbabwe is made apparent by a set of events and statements that followed the police operation,” she said.
“Within minutes of the arrival of the police at Mr Chin’ono’s home, the US embassy was already all over this issue which is between a sovereign country and its citizen, by tweeting and trying to bring pressure to bear on the Zimbabwean Government so it would not enforce the law of the land. Its particular interest in this one person is curious.
“Other Western embassies who usually take the USA’s lead joined in this irregular interference by tweeting and releasing statements which were calculated to obstruct the course of justice in a hosting country.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said “even after Zimbabwe’s independent Judiciary had delivered its verdict on the duo’s bail application, a senior member of the US administration issued a very derogatory and undiplomatic statement against the Government of Zimbabwe, showing condescending disrespect to a sovereign country”.
“Zimbabwe is keen to engage with all members of the community of nations, but will not surrender its sovereignty as a trade-off for this. All what Zimbabwe seeks is mutual respect and non-interference in its internal affairs.
“Going forward, Government will not compromise on Zimbabwe’s national security and expects all foreign embassies hosted here to behave with propriety as set out in the Vienna Convention,” she said.
On Thursday, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Mr Tibor Nagy exposed his bias against the Government when he commented on the case that is currently before the courts.
He tweeted: “The Zimbabwean Government has denied Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume their freedom while the corrupt remain free. When will the Government uphold the people’s Constitutional rights to freedom of political expression and freedom of the press?”
Minister Mutsvangwa said the US’ stance of meddling in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs was surprising given that President Donald Trump’s administration had cancelled public events in their home country.
“The ongoing USA elections are a big exercise in democratic expression. Even President Trump has had to cancel the Convention of the Republican Party in Jacksonville for fear of Covid-19. Why can’t the detractors and doom mongers equally copy this act of noble political restraint?
“And why can’t the American and Western embassies provide counsel to their regime change charges that this is not the hour to play dice with the lives of Zimbabweans? This is the season of Black Lives Matter after the choking to death of George Floyd by a cruel white police officer in Minneapolis.
“We have travelled and suffered from their past depredations. It’s not democracy they want. After all we paid a heavy price to attain it from the conquering colonials. They did not give up Zimbabwe on a platter. It’s cruel self-enrichment from our resources that they seek. Please why can’t you give Africa a break? As Zimbabwe we are saying: WE CAN’T BREATHE,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa said President Mnangagwa’s administration had no qualms with media reports on corruption as both the public and private media had free reign to expose graft.
“Even though Hopewell Chin’ono writes about corruption, he is not unique in this regard. All newspapers in Zimbabwe, including independent publications, have written extensively about corruption in Government and the private sector,” she said.
“None of the journalists who have written about the subject of corruption have been arrested for publishing the same. This is because the Government and the President of Zimbabwe acknowledge and appreciate the role the media plays in the investigation and exposition of corruption.
“The Standard and The Zimbabwe Independent newspapers together with the State media, reported on the NSSA scandal that resulted in the arrest of Minister Priscah Mupfumira. None of the journalists from these newspapers were arrested or censured for reporting on this case.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said President Mnangagwa’s appointment of Mr Trevor Ncube, who is the owner of the country’s largest independent media house, Alpha Media Holdings, to the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), showed his openness to diverse ideas.
She said the President has also affirmed his commitment to promoting a favourable media environment after the repeal of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
“Since coming into office as leader of the New Dispensation, His Excellency President Mnangagwa has provided a favourable working environment for media practitioners to conduct their business unfettered,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
“The Zimbabwe Independent from AMH publishes articles accusing Government officials of corruption on a weekly basis without fail but this has not attracted any arrest of the journalists concerned.
“The Second Republic through Parliament has repealed AIPPA, which in the past was used against journalists and replaced it with a raft of legislation aimed at protecting the rights of journalists to practice their profession freely and the rights of citizens to information concerning the areas of interest and concern.”
President Mnangagwa’s directive to order an investigation into the Drax International scandal that subsequently led to the axing of former Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo, showed a high-level commitment to fight graft.
“As a result of those investigations, several arrests were made. The most prominent of those arrested was the former Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Obadiah Moyo, who was charged and relieved of his duties as Minister of Health and Child Care,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
“It is, therefore, false to state that no action has been taken against the corrupt individuals fingered by Hopewell’s exposé. The President has consistently shown his unflinching commitment to fighting corruption by setting up a robust legal infrastructure to fight this economic scourge.
“He has also spearheaded the funding of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) as a way of capacitating it to deliver on its Constitutional mandate. This has seen an unprecedented arrest and summary dismissal of two serving Cabinet ministers in a short space of time.”
She cited the conviction and jailing of high profile individuals such as former Cabinet minister Samuel Undenge, former Director of State Residences Douglas Tapfumaneyi and former Zimbabwe National Roads Administration finance manager Simon Taranhike and others as being indicative of Government’s “Zero Tolerance to Corruption” policy.
The Minister said Government remains committed to implementing sound interventions to fight Covid-19 and protect its citizens from the pandemic.
“All the aforesaid is happening in the context of Zimbabwe’s fight against Covid-19 pandemic. At this moment Zimbabwe like the whole world faces the threat of the pandemic. The Zimbabwe Government has done reasonably and surprisingly well to date. Indeed it has confounded detractors and doom mongers.
“Hopewell and Ngarivhume belong to that camp of evil wishers. The begging question is why call for a violent uprising in the midst of a raging and ravaging Covid-19?”, Minister Mutsvangwa said.