Zim journalist Hopewell Chin’ono to remain behind bars as Harare magistrate refuses to grant bail
Zimbabwean journalist and documentary filmmaker, Hopewell Chin’ono, who was re-arrested last week on fresh charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice, was on Thursday denied bail by a Harare magistrate.
In dismissing his bail application, the court ruled that Chin’ono, who previously spent 45 days in remand prison on charges of inciting Zimbabweans to revolt against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, was not a proper candidate for bail.
In her ruling, magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa criticised the prosecution for its submissions but still found that the journalist should remain in custody.
“The state alluded that the accused would interfere with its three witnesses but did not mention the names of the witnesses and that the police were yet to record statements from them.
“The court finds that the police cannot arrest in order to investigate and this does not constitute a compelling reason to deny the accused,” ruled the magistrate.
“However, this court finds that he has a propensity to continue committing offences if he is released on bail as he committed this offence while he has another matter that is still pending before the courts.”
The ruling means that Chin’ono will spend more time at Chikurubi maximum security prison where he is being kept, despite his lawyers lodging a complaint that the correctional services department should not have kept him there with convicted criminals while he is still on remand.
In his bail application, Chin’ono was furious as the prosecution labelled him an “incorrigible criminal” who would abscond if granted bail.
Chin’ono said: “It is an insult to call me an incorrigible criminal when I have not been convicted of any crime in Zimbabwe or anywhere in the world.”
One of Chin’ono’s lawyers, Douglas Coltart, told reporters that the defence team would approach the high court to challenge the magistrate’s ruling.
“We disagree with the ground (that Chin’ono has the propensity to commit offences). Hopewell Chin’ono has not been convicted of any crime and our law has the presumption of innocence; that is, you are innocent until proven guilty.
“The case that the state was relying on for saying he has a propensity to commit further offences is not applicable in this case; it was a case of someone who had multiple previous convictions and that is not the case with Hopewell Chin’ono; so of course we will be filing our appeal as soon as possible… as soon as we get the court record and the ruling and we hope to get bail at the high court,” said Coltart.
The attorney also repeated claims by Chin’ono that he was being persecuted for his journalism work.
“From our perspective, it is clear that he is being targeted for his journalism. That was made very clear in these charges that they are about his journalism and his sources, (and) reporting on corruption.
“He has been fearlessly reporting on corruption issues and that’s really what this is about,” added Coltart.
Chin’ono’s investigative journalism work resulted in President Emmerson Mnangagwa dismissing his health minister, Obadiah Moyo, over a $60-million scandal surrounding the acquisition of Covid-19 PPE.
After the exposé, Chin’ono found himself in trouble and landed in remand prison for allegedly tweeting about mass protests that had been called earlier this earlier by a pro-democracy movement calling itself the July 31st Movement.
A defiant Chin’ono insisted in court that there was corruption in government departments that must be nipped in the bud.
“I mentioned on Twitter that real criminals are granted bail while the innocent are made to rot in jail. This is true in the case of Obadiah Moyo and lately Henrietta Rushwaya… the state did not oppose her bail when it was clear there was a strong case to answer,” Chin’ono told the court.
His Twitter post on the arrest of Rushwaya, who is now in remand prison awaiting a bail ruling after the prosecution withdrew its earlier consent to bail, resulted in him being arrested on the current charges.
The prosecution argues that Chin’ono’s tweet had the effect of obstructing justice in Rushwaya’s and his own incitement case that is still before the courts, after Chin’ono claimed that he had sources within the National Prosecuting Authority which he refused to name in court.
Chin’ono will again appear on 26 November for routine remand, and will stand trial on 7 December on the incitement charge.DM