Zimbabwe: #freehopewellnow - an Open Letter to the AU and SADC

Zimbabwe flag.
31 July 2020
document

Over a hundred African writers call on the AU and SADC to end their silence and suspend Zimbabwe.

Dear African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Tax,

As writers and journalists of African origin who are connected beyond borders, we state that we condemn the acts of violence on the home of journalist Hopewell Chin'ono. We equally condemn his arrest and subsequent denial of bail.

On 20 July 2020, award-winning Zimbabwean investigative journalist Mr Chin'ono who had, a month before, exposed corruption in the coronavirus-related contracts awarded by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to Drax International, tweeted that uniformed police had been questioning his staff. On the same day, uniformed police raided Mr Chin'ono's home and arrested him without a warrant. For hours, his whereabouts were unclear. It took the release of footage of the police breaking a glass door at his home and arresting him for the police to admit that they had taken him.

Zimbabwe's Ministry of Information, outside their mandate, released a charge sheet of Mr Chin'ono's arrest via their Twitter account. Despite Mr Chin'ono's arrest on 20 July, the charge sheet was dated 21 July. Breaking Zimbabwe's own laws which requires a person to go to court within 24 hours of arrest, Mr Chin'ono only appeared in court on unclear charges four days later and was denied bail until 7 August. In contrast, the former Minister of Health, Dr Obadiah Moyo, who approved the contracts that Mr Chin'ono exposed, was charged with criminal abuse of office and granted bail within 24 hours of his arrest. Dr Moyo remains free while Mr Chin'ono is in jail.

By arresting Hopewell Chin'ono arbitrarily, the Zimbabwean state has contravened the African Charter for Human Rights, in particular Article 6 and Article 14 which Zimbabwe signed and ratified.

We note with dismay the silence of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) at this gross violation of not only Mr Chin'ono's human rights, but at this clear intimidation of freedom of the press.

We note too that this is not the first time that individual and press rights have been violated by an AU member state with silence from the mother body. The African Union, an organisation that was quick to tell the world that #BlackLivesMatter in the wake of George Floyd' murder and other human rights abuses by police in the United States, seems strangely silent about the violation of Black Lives in Africa.

We fear that as long as Zimbabwe continues to violate its citizens' rights with impunity, we and fellow writers and journalists are in danger of having our rights violated in the different AU member states while the mother body stays silent. An injury to a Zimbabwean journalist for doing their job by the Zimbabwean state thus becomes potential injury to us all by any rogue African government.

We ask that all decent human beings join us in being our brothers' and sisters' keepers. As they protest in Zimbabwe, we ask SADC, the AU and other international bodies to suspend Zimbabwe with immediate effect. We ask too that all countries that respect human and media rights cut all diplomatic ties with a country that respects none.

We demand, instead of keeping Mr Chin'ono arrested, that Zimbabwe prosecute the perpetrators in the Drax scandal, get back coronavirus funds and #FreeHopewellChin'onoNow.

Signed,

Chris Abani

Leila Aboulela

Leye Adenle

Bisi Adjapon

Ama Atta Aidoo

Dami Ajayi

Kofi Akpabli

Richard Ali

d.bi young anitafrika

Barbara Angopa

Ayesha Harruna Attah

Ishmael Beah

TJ Benson

Nikiwe Bikitsha

Malungile Booi

Jessemusse Cacinda

Maxine Case

Efemia Chela

Panashe Chigumadzi

Shadreck Chikoti

Lynsey Chutel

Justin Clement

Nana Awere Damoah

Tolu Daniel

CA Davids

Nadia Davids

Philippa Yaa de Villiers

Bazukile Diko

Dilman Dila

Raoul Djimeli

Edwige Dro

Ekow Duker

Chikè Frankie Edozien

Mona Eltahawy

Kalaf Epalanga

Virgilia Ferrão

Paula Fray

Macharia Gaitho

Xolisa Guzula

Anton Harber

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

Eghosa Imasuen

Nozizwe Cynthia Jele

Nyasha Kadandara

Mubanga Kalimamukwento

Aryan Karganof

Caiphus Kgosana

Sihle Khumalo

Nicole Magabo Kiggundu

Mandla Langa

Kinna Likimani

Kwangu wa Liwewe

Max Lobe

Siphiwo Mahala

Angela Makholwa

Nansubuga Jennifer Makumbi

Makwena Manamela

Napo Masheane

Mohale Mashigo

Mel Matsinhe

Makanaka Mavengere

Nokuthula Mazibuko

Eusebius McKaiser

Zakes Mda

Maaza Mengiste

Ruona Meyer

Thando Mgqolozana

Niq Mhlongo

Gcina Mhlope

Lerato Mogoathle

Lebohang Mojapelo

T.O. Molefe

Yara Monteiro

William Moore

Ntshepeng Motema

Sisonke Msimang

Sihle Mthembu

Lindelwa Mtongana

Merdi Mukore

Dumisani Mulenga

Danai Mupotsa

James Murua

Neo Musangi

Tinashe Mushakavanhu

Sitawa Namwalie

Japhet Ncube

Njabulo Ndebele

Mumbo Nduati

Rémy Ngamije

Thembelani Ngenelwa

Kagayi Ngobi

Mukoma wa Ngugi

Masande Ntshanga

Josh Nyapimbi

Natasha Omokhodion-Banda

Dominic Brian Omondi

Yewande Omotoso

Ondjaki

Troy Onyango

Tochi Onyebuchi

Daniel Muta Sango

Mongane Wally Serote

Elma Shaw

Lamelle Shaw

Lola Shoneyin

Veronique Tadjo

Nokuthula Tshabalala

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

Kola Tubosun

Louise Umutoni

Molara Wood

Zukiswa Wanner

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