Zimbabwean journalist's home raided in crackdown ahead of protests
Armed police and state security agents raided the home of investigative journalist Mduduzi Mathuthu in Bulawayo on Thursday, on the eve of planned demonstrations against government corruption.
The demonstrations are being organised by civic society and the opposition, but journalists have been caught in crossfire. The Zimbabwean government says the demonstrations are an attempt to overthrow a democratically elected regime.
According to Mathuthu, he was not at home when the house was raided. Instead, his sister was taken into custody.
“They raided my house, found me absent and they gave my sister an ultimatum: get Mduduzi here, or we will take you. They took her. She has no journalistic or political bone in her,” he said.
A TimesLIVE journalist was outside the house and witnessed the police raid.
An arrest warrant issued for Mathuthu reads that he’s suspected of “organising and advocating for illegal demonstrations against the government of Zimbabwe”.
The warrant demands that all cameras, phones and computers that the state suspects he was using to “persuade Zimbabweans to engage in public violence” should be forfeited.
Mathuthu and another journalist Hopewell Chin’ono were instrumental in a recent exposé of corruption involving Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE), which sucked in members of the first family. Chin’ono is in remand custody facing charges under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act — the same act it appears Mathuthu is suspected under.
During the week leading to Friday's planned demonstrations, at least 15 opposition activists have gone into hiding after the state revealed that they were wanted for questioning.
One of them, legislator Job Sikhala, posted a video urging people to stand up to the regime. His post was from an undisclosed location.
However, some activists have been arrested and allegedly tortured.
Because of the increased onslaught on freedom of expression, Peter Hain, a former British cabinet minister, pleaded with the UK government to increase targeted sanctions on politicians and security chiefs in Zimbabwe.
“Opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume was arrested and youth leader Takunda Madzana abducted and tortured by state security agents on July 26,” said Hain.
“As well as rampant corruption, there is a pattern of ongoing human rights violations under cover of the Covid-19 crackdown. Can the government update its sanctions to cover more Zimbabwe ministers and security chiefs?”
On the ground, many Zimbabweans said they would not take part in demonstrations. Nonetheless, by 2pm on Thursday in major towns and cities, soldiers and the police instructed businesses to close and people go home.