HARARE , Zimbabwean politician Jacob Ngarivhume, leader of the Transform Zimbabwe party, has been convicted of incitement to public violence by a Harare magistrate. Ngarivhume and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono were arrested in July 2020 on charges of contravening Section 187(1)(a) as read with section 37(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Law [Codification and Reform] Act, Chapter 9:23, “incitement to participate in public violence.”
Ngarivhume has been an outspoken critic of the Zimbabwean government, calling for greater democracy and accountability. His arrest and subsequent conviction have been seen by many as politically motivated and part of the government’s ongoing efforts to suppress dissent and opposition.
Chin’ono, who was also arrested alongside Ngarivhume, took to Twitter on Thursday to announce the conviction, stating that his colleague would be sentenced on Friday. He also claimed that the charges were “mere political persecution,” and that his own lawyers had successfully challenged the charges in the High Court, where they were dismissed as “bogus.”
Ngarivhume was granted bail by High Court judge Justice Musithu in September 2020, after spending 43 days in remand prison.
The offense of incitement to public violence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. However, the charge has been widely criticized for its use by the government to silence dissent and opposition. Many political activists, journalists, and other individuals who speak out against the ruling party or its policies have been arrested and charged with incitement to public violence.
In August 2021, Ngarivhume was briefly arrested by police officers from Matapi Police Station in Mbare, who then held two trucks that were to be used for a clean-up campaign in the suburb.
The conviction of Ngarivhume is likely to further fuel concerns about the state of democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe, where President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been accused of clamping down on opposition voices and restricting freedom of expression.