Hopewell Chin’ono acquitted again

Prosecutors claimed that Chin’ono had jeopardised the integrity of cases against himself and that of Rushwaya.

HIGH Court judge Justice Siyabona Musithu has acquitted journalist Hopewell Chin’ono after he was charged for his 2020 tweet saying Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president Henrietta Rushwaya was not going to be convicted for gold smuggling.

Rushwaya was arrested in October 2020 at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare for allegedly trying to smuggle 6kg of gold (worth some US$366 000) out of the country.

Chin’ono later tweeted saying Rushwaya was going to be granted bail without any opposition by National Prosecuting Authority officials.

Prosecutors claimed that Chin’ono had jeopardised the integrity of cases against himself and that of Rushwaya.

He was charged with obstructing the course of justice.

Musithu acquitted Chin’ono through upholding an application for exception, which was dismissed by a Harare magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa who had ruled that the journalist should stand trial.

Chin’ono had cited Gofa and the state as the first and second respondents respectively.

He said the tweet made reference to a court appearance that was yet to take place. 

Gofa, in her ruling, stated that the charge sheet and state outline were clearly worded, understandable and proved that the journalist had committed a crime.

In his judgement, Musithu said it would be a gross irregularity if the High Court failed to intervene where a miscarriage of justice is being done.

“It would be prejudicial to the accused, and a waste of time and resources for the trial court to carry on with a trial likely to be declared a nullity,” Musithu said.

“The circumstances of this matter show that grave injustice would occur where this court would not interfere in the unterminated proceedings before the court a quo.

“The circumstances clearly reflect an apathetic attitude on the part of the drafter of the charge and whoever placed those charges against the applicant in court.”

Musithu said the charge against Chin'ono should have been turned down by the NPA.

"It is disheartening to note that the same NPA that successfully opposed the exception in the court a quo, is the same NPA that readily conceded to the deficiencies in the charge sheet and the state outline, despite having earlier opposed the relief sought herein,” the judge ruled.

“Such prevarication does not bode well for the proper administration of justice as it erodes public confidence in the operations of that office.”

Rushwaya was also named in an Al Jazeera documentary on gold smuggling and money laundering.

Musithu’s ruling was the third time the journalist was being acquitted over charges that emanated from his tweets after he was first arrested in July 2020.

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