Top cop accused of assaulting Zim journalist

May 12, 2022

Brenna Matendere

Lawyers representing two journalists accused of taking photos at a polling station during Saturday’s by-election in Chitungwiza have filed a complainant of assault by a top police officer of one of the scribes.

Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) reporters, Blessed Mhlanga (42) and Chengeto Chidi (24) were recently arrested and detained in Chitungwiza for allegedly violating the Electoral Act by reportedly photographing a prohibited area and disorderly conduct.

However, lawyer Jeremiah Bhamu who is representing the two reporters told magistrate Sheunesu Matova on Monday (9 May 2022) that the police had refused to take a report from Mhlanga after he was allegedly assaulted by one  Kufakunesu Matsika, a superintendent.

“He was assaulted by Superintendent Matsika with clenched fists and open hands. In the process, he incurred injuries on his left hand. Superintendent Matsika also grabbed and smashed a Huawei P40 phone which belonged to the first accused, resulting in its complete damage,” Bhamu wrote.

He expressed dismay at the refusal by police at St Mary’s police station to take Mhlanga’s report. Matsika is based at the same station.

“Superintendent Matsika is not being made to face justice for his crimes simply because he holds a police badge and that is deplorable. He has not been taken to court to answer to his actions or arrested,” said lawyer Bhamu.

The journalists are denying the charges and were released on bail after depositing ZW$20 000 each with the clerk of court.

They insist they did not take photos in any prohibited area but, instead, were arrested while filming police officers trying to handcuff Zengeza West lawmaker, Job Sikhala.

The matter is pending at the Chitungwiza magistrate court where Malvern Mwendera is representing the state.

Magistrate Matova told the court that the complaints against Kufakunesu would be followed up.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based media advocacy group, has in the past expressed concern of growing cases of reporters arrested while doing their work.

On 3 May 2022, Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said in a statement that the arrest of the two journalists was unfortunate as it happened a few days after the event where President Emmerson Mnangagwa pledged to uphold media freedoms.

“The arrest of the two journalists is quite concerning as it comes barely a week after Zimbabwe hosted national and regional World Press Freedom Day commemorations, where local authorities reiterated their commitment to freedom of expression and the media,” MISA said in a statement.

Last year in the same month of May when the world celebrates media freedom, a Zimbabwean New York Times corresponded, Jeffrey Moyo, was arrested on allegations of facilitating an unlawful reporting trip for two foreign journalists from the US publication.

He was over-detained and subsequently released on bail in Bulawayo.

A Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZBC) staffer, Thabang Farai Manhika, was also arrested in the same case after he was accused of breaking regulations in issuing media press cards to the visiting journalists from the New York Times.

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