Chin'ono 'committed to work' despite arrests

Award-winning investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono remains committed to his work. AFP/Jekesai Njikizana

HARARE - The ruling party in his native Zimbabwe has declared him an enemy of the state. 

Nevertheless, he was freed on bail from a maximum security jail, the second time he has been locked up in less than four months.

Award-winning investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono remains committed to his work.

"I am not going to stop exposing corruption," he told AFP after his release from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

READ: Zim journalist Hopewell Chin'ono remains behind bars over tweet

"That's the nature of our work as journalists." 

Despite his status as a pre-trial prisoner, Chin'ono was held in overcrowded cells in the prison's D-section, where death row inmates are kept. On several occasions he was brought to court in leg irons and handcuffs.

He faces trial for having allegedly obstructed justice after tweeting about possible bail for a politically connected mines boss arrested for trying to smuggle gold to Dubai.

"When they arrest people like journalists they know it's most likely to break you, but in my case... I will not allow prison to break me," he said at his Harare home.

READ: Zimbabwean journalist freed after arrest over tweet

On July 20, armed police burst into his house by shattering a glass door and arrested him on charges of inciting public violence.

He had tweeted his support for an opposition call for countrywide non-violent anti-corruption protests.

The demonstration was effectively banned when President Emmerson Mnangagwa imposed a curfew, deploying police and soldiers to enforce confinement measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

At the time, Chin'ono had been investigating alleged corruption linked to the government purchases of coronavirus protection gear and test kits.

READ: Zim journalist Hopewell Chin'ono arrested again

That scandal led to the sacking of the health minister -- but still cost him 45 days in jail, alongside convicted rapists, armed robbers and murderers.

"The worst experience one can ever go through," he said, describing the conditions.

"People sleep like rats," he said: 46 people crammed into cells meant for 16 people, with no water to drink or for ablution facilities.

"The prison journey is horrible."

READ: Zim journalist Chin'ono granted bail

When he came down with a fever, there was no medicine to treat him, not even a device to measure his blood pressure. And this was in a prison holding 2,700 inmates -- double its capacity, he said.

"Things are getting worse," he said, as he compared life under Mnangagwa's with that of his predecessor, long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, who was ousted in a military coup in November 2017.

"The Mnangagwa regime does not want corruption exposed," he said.

"Whenever we touch on the looting of public funds and the plunder of national resources and it involves the president's family, you get arrested."


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