Zimbabwe: Jailed Journalist ‘Gravely Ill’ After Prison Guards Starved Him

Hopewell Chin'ono
U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe

Hopewell Chin’ono, the Zimbabwean freelance journalist jailed by the Mnangagwa regime for his corruption investigations, has fallen unwell and is now receiving urgent medical care, his lawyer confirmed Monday.

Posting on Twitter, his lawyer Doug Coltart did not specify what his client was suffering from, although Radio France Internationale (AFI) reported that he is “gravely ill” and still being held at a maximum-security prison.

“I have just visited Hopewell Chin’ono at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison and can confirm that he is unwell,” his lawyer Doug Coltart wrote on Twitter. “We have alerted his private doctor who will be attending to him immediately and we will act accordingly based on the medical assessment and advice. #ZimbabweanLivesMatter.”

Police arrested Chin’ono and opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume in July on charges of supposedly calling on followers to “participate in public violence” after the pair supported nationwide protests demanding the resignation of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s far-left regime. Chin’ono had recently gained prominence for his investigative journalism uncovering corruption allegations related to the procurement of Chinese coronavirus supplies by the Zimbabwean Health Ministry, prompting the country’s health minister to resign.

Last month, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) accused prison authorities of keeping the two men in leg shackles and refusing to give them a balanced diet that they require because of pre-existing medical conditions. Instead, they were only given sadza, a maize flour porridge common in Africa.

“Of concern to ZLHR is the welfare of Chin’ono and Ngarivhume who have been left with no access to food as the two do not eat sadza for medical reasons but they were advised that ZPCS only serves sadza in prison,” the ZLHR said in a statement. “Because both Chin’ono and Ngarivhume are on medication, they would need access to a balanced diet while in prison.”

The United States Embassy in Harare has also expressed concern over the case, demanding the men’s release.

“Denying bail and using the legal system to jail journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume, and others for exercising their rights undermines democracy and freedom of speech,” the embassy wrote on Twitter last month.

Persecution of political dissidents was commonplace under the late dictator Robert Mugabe and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa has made no attempts to improve his dire human rights record. Following Mugabe’s departure in late 2017, Mnangagwa promised to usher in a new era of prosperity to the troubled country, although his leadership is now effectively indistinguishable from his predecessor.

His victory in the 2018 presidential elections remains widely disputed by internal and foreign observers, while the country’s dire economic predicament has only worsened. Last November, the United Nations warned in a report that Zimbabwe was on the brink of “man-made starvation,” a situation that has since been exacerbated by lockdowns imposed during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.

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