BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
Incarcerated investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who is accused of inciting public violence, was yesterday dragged out of his prison cell on the pretext that his physician wanted to see him.
He was manhandled into a prison van and whisked to court where he had no appointment, the court heard.
As a result, Chin’ono missed an appointment with his private doctor who was on his way to the remand prison to attend to him following medical tests he conducted on the scribe on Monday.
His lawyer Taona Nyamakura said Chin’ono was not supposed to be in court because his physician had recommended that he be isolated.
“Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services dragged Chin’ono out of his cell on the pretext that his physician wanted to see him only for him to realise that he was misled before they manhandled him into the prison van to court,” Nyamakura said.
“Chin’ono ought not to be in court because he is ill and exhibits symptoms his special physician suspects to be COVID-19.”
Nyamakura said Chin’ono’s condition could expose everyone else in the courtroom.
“Chin’ono’s condition requires him not to be in contact with other people until he is given the greenlight to do so by his physician,” the lawyer said.
But prosecutor Tendai Shonhayi said they communicated with Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison doctor Blessing Dhorobha, who indicated that the scribe had complained of headache and had a slightly elevated temperature on Monday.
“His doctor came and tested him for COVID-19 and the results are not yet out,” she said.
Shonhayi told the court that Chin’ono has not been co-operating with prison doctors demanding to be attended to by his own private doctor.
“He only wanted his private doctor but Dhorobha’s observations were that he was not a threat to other inmates and did not show any visible signs or symptoms of COVID-19. If Chin’ono was so ill, there is no reason he should have refused to see a prison doctor,” Shonhayi told the court.
Nyamakura objected, telling Shonhayi that section 50(1)(b) and section 50(5)(e) of the Constitution gave his client the right to a doctor of his choice.
“State admits that tests were done and why would prison officials allow that when it was unnecessary?” he asked.
“This action by the prison doctor shows his incompetence. The State must submit a thorough formal investigative report over these issues.”
However, the magistrate demanded to see both medical reports from Chin’ono’s private doctor as well as the prison doctor.
The matter was postponed to September 14. Chin’ono is also expected to attend his bail hearing today at the High Court.