Bulawayo lawyer, Josphat Tshuma has filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court seeking the release of The Standard newspaper journalist, Nqobani Ndlovu who was arrested on Wednesday.
Ndlovu was arrested over a story that police were recruiting war veterans to take senior posts ahead of elections expected next year.
Tshuma said when he went to the Bulawayo Central Police Station on Tuesday to fetch his client he was told that Ndlovu could not be taken to court.
“I asked the officer in charge at the station whether they would take him to court today and they said no as they were yet to interview the editor and the company’s representative as they want to jointly charge them,” Tshuma said.
“The detectives investigating the case will decide tomorrow (Friday) whether to send him to court or apply for an extension of detention.
“However, with instructions from my client I have filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court seeking an order that Ndlovu be immediately brought to court and an interdict for the police to release him from detention and proceed by way of summons.”
Ndlovu, who is being held at the Bulawayo Central Police station, located a few meters from the paper’s offices, has been charged with contravening Section 96 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act) (Criminal Defamation).
Tshuma said the police tried to force Ndlovu to reveal sources for the story that claimed that police had postponed examinations that will have seen junior offices promoted to senior ranks.
The story said the posts would now be filled by war veterans who will direct operations during the elections.
Police say the story was false and they are hunting for the newspaper’s editor Nevanji Madanhire.
Ndlovu’s arrest and the harassment of Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) bureau chief Dumisani Sibanda over the same story has alarmed the international community and is likely to thrust Zimbabwe back on the spotlight for its harsh treatment of journalists.
On Wednesday The Norwegian Union of Journalists (NJ) petitioned Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and urged him to ensure that the unity government respect press freedom.
In a letter a letter copied to Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Norway, Mary Sibusisiwe Mubi, NJ, which represents 10 000 journalists said it was deeply worried about the safety of Zimbabwean journalists.
“We urge the President (Robert Mugabe), the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice to protect all the country’s journalists from all kind of violence and intimidation and safeguard media people doing their duty of informing the public.” NJ said.
Meanwhile, the MDC led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara yesterday condemned Ndlovu‘s arrest and the harassment of journalists in general.
The party said the arrest came at a time when the government was expected to be spearheading constitutional reforms to guarantee media freedom in line with the Global Political Agreement.
“The party notes that is public record that in the past some commissioned officers in the security forces have issued statements that prove loyalty to Zanu PF than the people of Zimbabwe,” said Edwin Ndlovu, the MDC’s publicity secretary for Bulawayo.
“This surely strengthens the suspicion that promotion or appointments to the commissioned ranks has been through loyalty to a political party than merit.”