The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom.
Ever since Zimbabwe’s inception after its independence in 1980, the country has been plagued with corruption, violence, and backhouse dealings that have left the nation bankrupt, in debt, and under sanctions.
Robert Gabriel Mugabe was the second president of Zimbabwe. He was a brilliant orator, revered for his incredible wit and intelligence, however, he ruled Zimbabwe for over thirty-seven years with an iron fist. This man had initiated the most horrific genocide of the Ndebele people, referred to as Gukurahundi, yet had also empowered indigenous Zimbabweans through land reform. To the people of Zimbabwe, he was a complicated, terrifying man. So when he was finally ousted by a military coup-d’etat, it did not feel real.
Intimidation of media and suppression of press was a past-time under Mugabe’s reign.
The ruling party Zanu-PF, which was under Mugabe’s rule for over three decades, set a precedent of media suppression that has carried on to this day. Intimidation of media and suppression of press was a past-time under Mugabe’s reign. Soon, majority of the journalists who dared speak out against the regime fled, like Geoffrey Nyarota, who has lived in the USA since 2003 after an assassination attempt, because of Willowgate. This scandal was the first of many that exposed the Zimbabwean government of corruption; high ranking party member bought cars from factories and resold them at triple the price, creating a business venture for themselves. They resigned, but this stain didn’t dissolve, it merely started to spread.
Under Mugabe’s rule many journalists who managed to flee, sought asylum or were exiled. The unlucky ones however, disappeared – without a trace.
Now, Zimbabwean media practitioners are tentative to what is said, broadcast and published. The censorship fostered under Mugabe’s rule continues to this day, and it became evident with the case of Hopewell Chin’ono.
Before he was arrested, he managed to send one final tweet, “They are breaking into my home. Alert the world!”
Rebuilding Zimbabwe is what we should all be looking to, not trying to tear it down.
Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested because he was investigating the high level of corruption within the Zimbabwean government. The case was against the Health Minister Obadiah Moyo, who was arrested for selling medicine supplies for COVID-19 at inflated prices. The Minister was fired, but Hopewell began making connections to President Mnangagwa and his family. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was lauded a hero when he ousted Mugabe, now finds himself faced with an despaired nation strangled by economic collapse. The arrest of Hopewell Chin’ono has shown Mnangagwa’s heavy hand, and that he has inherited some tricks of survival from his predecessor.
Hopewell Chin’ono posted a video on his now-deleted Twitter account, highlighting the inadequate preparation in hospitals across Zimbabwe for coronavirus. Which begs the question, “where are the supplies?”
The Zimbabwean government has taken Hopewell’s truth and repackaged it as illegal. They have veiled and morphed the right of speech as of incitement of violence, which is what Chin’ono is charged with by officials in Zimbabwe. It seems as though President Mnangagwa’s administration is merely bending the law to suit their unscrupulous agenda and to tighten their hold on power.
Yet, just last month the Zimbabwean government spent millions on new cars, including Range Rovers and Toyota’s. This is in a country that continues to suffocate at the hands of hyperinflation and falls deeper into an economic abyss from which it seems like we’ll never climb out of.
My generation will not be scared. We will not lay down and take the abuse and disregard any longer.
President Mnangagwa’s administration is already prepping for votes for four years from now. He is bribing and cozying up to senior civil servants and ambassadors, to secure the election in 2023, while the promises of 2018 are yet to be fulfilled.
If this case was truly legal, a warrant would have been issued upon Hopewell’s arrest and he’s been denied bail. However, his lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, has said in a statement that when they arrested him, no warrant was shown. Beatrice Mtetwa is calling this arrest an “abduction,” as she should.
#BREAKING Beatrice Mtetwa, the lawyer for crusading journalist Hopewell Chin'ono says he has been "abducted" from his home after state security agents broke glass front door to gain access. Chin'ono recorded moment the agents entered his room and ordered him to put down his phone pic.twitter.com/Y5JuTDs4uP
— ZimLive (@zimlive) July 20, 2020
The government thinks they’re silencing us, by using Hopewell Chin’ono as an example to scare off anyone who dares speak out against them. Well, you can’t scare us. My generation will not be scared. We will not lay down and take the abuse and disregard any longer.
When Mugabe was ousted in 2017, it felt that maybe we would see a new and prosperous Zimbabwe. Yet, it feels like it is still a dream. The instability and volatility of the situation in Zimbabwe are draining for those living in the country.
I’ve always been told that Zimbabweans are resilient. But, the burden we carry every day on our shoulders is tiresome. All we can do is look and know that a better future won’t come unless we are a part of the change we want to see.
We shouldn’t look to the fossils of yesterday to rule us. How can we be shocked when they pass legislations that don’t coincide with the progressive views of the youth. We need to take our lives in our own hands. Rebuilding Zimbabwe is what we should all be looking to, not trying to tear it down.
Our destinies lie solely within, it’s scary but we need to do this, for our Zimbabwe.