Zim police detain 5 journalists at protest over VP's luxury hotel stay

2016-06-27 11:17
File: AFP

File: AFP

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Dinner with Grace: Five stories from Zimbabwe
Dinner with Grace: Five stories from Zimbabwe

As Zimbabwe sinks deeper into economic crisis, Zimbabwe corporates are being asked to fork out as much as $100 000 for a top table at a Zanu-PF fundraising dinner - where Grace Mugabe will be the guest of honour.

Harare - Police in Zimbabwe on Sunday detained five journalists covering another protest against Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko's one-and-a-half-year stay in a luxury hotel in the capital, a media watchdog said.

Just two days after activists mounted a demonstration in the glittering foyer of Harare's Rainbow Towers hotel - where Mphoko occupies a suite - they were back again, and that's when the reporters were apparently picked up.

Named by MISA Zimbabwe as Garikai Chaunza, Kumbulani Zamuchiya, Edgar Gweshe, James Jemwa and Christopher Mahove, the five were reportedly taken to Harare Central police station.

Online watchdog @ZimMediaReview said later on Sunday that they were held for eight hours and then released.

Tweeted @ZimMediaReview: "It is clear police are nervous about how video footage of citizens' protests is going viral. They don't want any of it to be seen."

That was a reference to widely-shared video footage of Friday's anti-Mphoko demonstration, which saw activist Stern Zvorwadza being dragged away by police officers in riot gear. 

Bond notes 

Mphoko, meanwhile, has defended his stay at the Rainbow Towers, according to the state ZBC broadcaster. He reportedly said the hotel was "part owned by government and as such, there is nothing amiss about [him] occupying state owned property". The hotel is owned by the Rainbow Tourism Group in which the state-run pension fund NSSA has a shareholding.

With his grandson, the vice president is estimated to have run up a bill of around $300 000 for a more-than-550-day stay. He and his wife have turned down several roomy homes in Harare on the basis that they are not fitting for a man of his stature. 

There are also claims that up to three activists were also picked up at Sunday's demonstation, including Zvorwadza. The Tajamuka/Sesjikile campaign says it organised the protest and that Zvorwadza (whose release was confirmed on Saturday) was taken in yet again.

Public anger is rising in Zimbabwe amid an avalanche of revelations of government corruption and profligacy while ordinary citizens are squeezed to near breaking point. Salaries for the army have been delayed by two weeks this month: teachers will be paid even later. The imposition of new import controls is forecast to hit Zimbabwe's army of small-scale informal traders most. 

Many in Zimbabwe fear the introduction of bond notes will return the southern African nation back to the chaos of 2000-8, when savings in Zimbabwe dollars became worthless and monthly government pensions in some cases amounted to the price of a loaf of bread.

The privately-owned Standard on Sunday reported Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa as saying $50 million worth of bond notes would likely be in circulation by the end of December.

Read more on:    phelekezela mphoko  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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