Confusion over what “essential services” arose on Monday, the first day of Zimbabwe’s lockdown, following the detention of a journalist in the Midlands capital, Gweru.
By Moses Matenga
Kudzai Musengi was caught up in the confusion after police asked why he was up and about yet the government had declared that everybody stays indoors.
Musengi then gave the law enforcement agencies his Zimbabwe Media Commission card, but his accreditation expired last year and the government is yet to issue new cards for this year.
To add confusion, the security services insisted that they were unaware of any government directive allowing journalists to continue with their work.
The Information ministry later issued a statement that would allow journalists to continue with their work and receive passage from the security services.
Musengi said he was detained at Gweru Central police station at around 8am and was released a few hours later.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe chapter condemned the police action.
“In view of the COVID-19 lockdown, Misa Zimbabwe is appealing to the government, the police and other state security agents, to allow journalists covering the coronavirus situation in the country to be allowed to conduct their lawful professional duties without hindrance pending renewal of their accreditation cards in line with the new fees,” Misa Zimbabwe said in a statement.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police confirmed releasing Musengi, adding that all journalists were free to conduct their duties using the 2019 accreditation card.
“We have taken note of the purported arrest of a journalist in Gweru on account of expired accreditation cards.
“Police General Headquarters has intervened after consultation with the Ministry of Information Publicity and Broadcasting Services,” the cops said.
Several media organisations including the Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum and the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists voiced their concern over the incident.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced announced a 21-day lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Some sectors have been designated as essential services, allowing them to continue operating so that the economy does not collapse, but this has given rise to confusion.