THERE was drama at the Harare Magistrates Court yesterday as journalist Hopewell Chin’ono’s was brought to court well after all the courts had closed for business and staff knocked off.
BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
A special court had to be created at Court 14, which is designated as an Anti-Corruption Court.
The melee started when riot police chased away journalists who were covering the hearing from the court gallery, saying there was need to observe social distancing, despite not applying the same measure during Henrietta Rushwaya’s case.
The gallery was packed for the appearance of Rushwaya, who is accused of trying to smuggle 6kg of gold to Dubai. Lawyer Thabani Mpofu pleaded with the police officers to allow journalists to cover the case.
Harare magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa then remanded Chin’ono in custody without placing any charges on him, saying she could not run the hearing at night.
Chin’ono, through his lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa and Gift Mtisi, had submitted an application for the State to proceed with the matter by way of summons since he had been detained in police custody for more than 48 hours.
Marehwanazvo dismissed Chin’ono’s application before postponing the case to today.
“Considering the time, court cannot sit through the night and allow State to lead evidence from the investigation officer, ” Marehwanazvo said.
Addressing journalists outside the Harare Magistrates Court, Mtetwa said Chin’ono was being accused of posting messages on Twitter regarding Rushwaya’s case.
It is also alleged that Chin’ono created close relations with the National Prosecuting Authority staff and got confidential information on the case. Mtetwa said police notified her of Chin’ono’s arrest well after they had arrested him.
“No investigations were done before the arrest. There is no clear explanation why the police took so long to take us to court. We raised the issue that the court cannot entertain a person standing before it illegally, but no determination has been given except remanding him in custody,” she said.
Chin’ono and his lawyers also challenged the courts for taking him to an Anti-Corruption Court, arguing that allegations levelled against him had nothing to do with the Anti-Corruption Court.
“We were given a CRB number for an Anti-Corruption Court but allegations levelled against him have nothing to do with corruption. It’s like you want a divorce and you are taken to the Criminal Court, “Mtetwa said.
Chin’ono chipped in: “We explain time and again to citizens that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is abusing the court system using the Anti-Corruption Courts to punish and persecute critics and journalists. Here I am as the evidence. I have a criminal case before me, but I am in an anti-corruption court.”
l Follow Miriam on Twitter