Armed police raided the home of ZimLive editor Mduduzi Mathuthu on Thursday, saying the were looking for “subversive materials” to be used in planned anti-government protests on Friday.
Six police officers driving in a white Toyota Hilux arrested the journalist’s sister Nomagugu Mathuthu as bait in a bid to force her brother to turn himself in.
Mathuthu was not home when police rummaged through the house in Bulawayo’s Mahatshula North suburb.
Mathuthu recently exposed a multi-million-dollar Covid-19 procurement scandal which has sucked in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s twin sons, and got the minister of health sacked.
On Wednesday, ZimLive also reported in detail proceedings of a fractious meeting of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu PF party, at which Central Intelligence Organisation boss Isaac Moyo was unprecedentedly brought in to allege a plot to oust Mnangagwa by his internal Zanu PF opponents who wanted his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, to take over.
Speaking from a secret location on Thursday night, Mathuthu said he believed the real intention was to seize his electronic gadgets and find out his sources.
“I’ve done nothing wrong. What we’re witnessing is a sustained attack on journalists, political leaders, human rights defenders and unionists by a regime that fears its people who are simply fed-up with the lies, the corruption and incompetence of their leaders,” Mathuthu said.
“They searched my house and found nothing of a criminal nature, they were just looking for a pretext to lay their hands on my computers and other gadgets for the soul reason of establishing my sources. It is a most serious attack on the practice of journalism, completely at odds with the promise of a new dispensation by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.”
Two weeks ago, police arrested journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume, leader of the small Transform Zimbabwe opposition party, accusing them of using social media to incite public violence on July 31. Both men deny the charges, and they have been repeatedly frustrated in their bid to secure bail.
Earlier on Thursday, men in plain clothes pointed guns at three of Mathuthu’s nephews as they emerged from a hardware shop in the city. University student Tawanda Muchehiwa was bundled into a pick-up truck and driven away, and was not seen again. His lawyer Nqobani Ndlovu last night filed a habeas corpus application at the High Court compelling police to bring him before a court.
Amandlenkosi Mathuthu and Advent Mathuthu were forced into a silver Toyota Altezza and driven to Bulawayo Central Police station where they were interrogated for hours, accused of plotting to oust President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Amandlenkosi, 19, was later released into Ndlovu’s custody alongside her mother, Nomagugu, amid an outpouring of condemnation over the arrests.
The Zimbabwe Editors’ Forum chairman Dumisani Muleya blasted: “The police actions are similar to what Ian Smith’s racist colonial regime used to do – very dastardly, nefarious and despotic stuff.”
The Media Institute for Southern Africa, which is supporting Mathuthu, condemned the raid which it said was a threat to press freedom.
Ndlovu said police said they would be charging Advent with incitement of violence, after allegedly finding flyers inscribed ‘Zanu PF Must Go’.
In the search at Mathuthu’s house, the lawyer said police indicated that they recovered a pellet gun, two masks and two flyers written ‘Zanu PF Must Go.’
The police search warrant – which carried a wrong address – said Mathuthu was suspected of “organising and advocating for illegal demonstrations against the government of Zimbabwe pencilled for July 31, 2020.”
“He is believed to be communicating with Zimbabweans through his cellular phones and various means, intending by the communication to persuade or induce Zimbabweans to engage in public violence,” the warrant said.
Mathuthu was also suspected to be “manufacturing, storing and distributing to members of the public such materials for use during the illegal demonstration.”