By Nyashadzashe Ndoro
Incarcerated journalist Hopewell Chin’ono has told the court that the essence of a tweet he is being charged with was inspired by the need to expose how corruption in the mineral sector is impacting negatively on Zimbabwe’s economic progress, Nehanda Radio can report.
Chin’ono appeared before Harare regional magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa on Monday, facing charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice after he allegedly tweeted that he had spoken with some members of National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) who told him that gold smuggler Henrietta Rushwaya was going to be granted bail.
Rushwaya, Mnangagwa’s relative and former Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) boss was arrested at Robert Mugabe International Airport after she was caught attempting to smuggle 6.09kgs of gold to Dubai worth over USD$300 000.
But Chin’ono’s tweet was confirmed after the state shockingly declined to oppose bail for Rushwaya. Magistrate Ngoni Nduna intervened and ordered the state to give reasons why they were not opposing bail.
That is when the state decided to oppose bail citing they had new charges against Rushwaya.
Speaking during a cross examination by his lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, Chin’ono accepted that the tweet was his, adding that the gold smuggling case was of national interest since millions of dollars are allegedly believed to be siphoned out of the country through gold smuggling.
It is confirmed that when Chin’ono was arrested last week, he was initially charged with disrespecting the Judiciary after he tweeted that the Chief Justice Luke Malaba was seen leaving the Magistrates Court when he was denied bail.
But during his detention at Harare Central Police Station, the police removed the charge including that of breaching bail conditions.
Chin’ono argued that they removed the other two charges because they realised Malaba would be asked to stand in the minor court answering to Chin’ono’s allegations.
“When the police arrested me at my house, they did not know why they were arresting me.
“They told me I had insulted the court and violated my bail. They removed a charge about Chief Justice Luke Malaba because it meant he would come and stand where I am.
“Even the boss of the NPA has accused the judiciary of corruption
“The person who was arrested has a history of criminal activities
“She (Rushwaya) comes from a very powerful family
“The President’s security was also involved
“You will be a stupid journalist not to be interested in that case.
“It was debated in British Parliament,” Chin’ono said.
He added, “I don’t think any competent court can convict me based on this malicious information.
“The Minister of Home Affairs confirmed USD 100 million worth of gold is being smuggled out of Zimbabwe every month. Money equivalent to running all our central hospitals for two years.”
When the state examined him, Chin’ono said; “there is no offense here there is malicious information.”
Chin’ono is already on bail after he was arrested on July 20 and charged with inciting violence in connection with 31st July protests against corruption in government, spent 45 days at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison before being released by the High Court.
The investigative journalist played a crucial role in exposing alleged corruption by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s wife Auxillia and son Collins, the US $60 million Dax Covidgate scandal that saw the arrest and dismissal of former Health Minister Obadiah Moyo.
He was arrested together with opposition Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume and MDC Alliance Vice Chairman Job Sikhala who have since been released on bail by the High Court in Harare. Sikhala attended court Monday in solidarity with their fellow detainee. Nehanda Radio