SW Radio Africa (London)

14 March 2012

Zimbabwe: Journalists Arrested for Investigating Pollution From Chiadzwa

Last Friday four Zimbabwean journalists were arrested in Manicaland Province, while investigating river pollution believed to have been caused by the diamond mining companies operating in the Chiadzwa area.

No charges were immediately brought against the four journalists Sidney Saize, Andrew Mambondiani, Chengetai Murimwa and Admire Matende, who are based in Mutare. But Saize says they did see evidence of polluted water and got testimonies from local villagers whose livestock was affected.

The journalists were released the same day into the custody of their lawyer David Tandiri, and ordered to report to the Law and Order section at Mutare police station over the weekend. No charges were determined by the police until Monday.

Sidney Saize told SW Radio Africa that they were finally charged for being a "criminal nuisance", with police saying they would proceed by way of summons. "They did not want to let us go without any charges so they were arm-twisting us to accept a lighter offence," Saize explained.

"We denied this charge because any Zimbabwean can be arrested of criminal nuisance. No matter what you are doing it can be considered a nuisance by the next person," Saize complained.

Saize said they went to the Chiadzwa area to establish the levels of pollution in the Save and Odzi rivers, alleged to be the result of diamond extraction by several companies mining there. These rivers are important as they are the only source of clean water for the local villagers.

"Along some of the river beds we could see carcasses of dead animals, cows, goats, and the villagers attributed these deaths to be polluted water along the Save and Odzi River", Saize said.

He added that many children had skin rashes, which the parents alleged was the result of bathing in polluted water.

What the journalists witnessed confirms allegations previously made by civil society groups, who called for a ban on the sale of stones from Chiadzwa after many local villagers were killed by government troops.

The internationally monitoring group, the Kimberley Process (KP), controversially approved the sale of Chiadzwa diamonds last year and civil groups withdrew their membership from the KP in protest, saying the abuses have continued.

The arrest of the journalists comes at a time when the number of attacks on independent media have increased.

ZANU PF thugs have illegally banned circulation of the Daily News in some areas of Mashonaland, war vets have threatened NewsDay and there have been ongoing attacks on newspaper vendors.

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