On January 21, 2020, security officers affiliated with the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, a Zimbabwean opposition group, barred journalist Robert Tapfumaneyi from covering a meeting in the capital, Harare, assaulted him, and broke his camera lens, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, news reports, and a statement by the Zimbabwean chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, a regional press freedom group.
Tapfumaneyi told CPJ that the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance had invited him to cover the meeting. He intended to live-stream it for the local media outlet Sly Media Productions and to write a report for the news website New Zimbabwe.
When he and another journalist arrived at the venue, the party’s security officials searched their bags, Tapfumaneyi said.
He said they searched the other journalist’s bag even after he had taken his camera out of it, at which point Tapfumaneyi remarked that the search was “pointless.” That comment angered the officers, who then accused Tapfumaneyi of working with the state broadcaster, which is regarded by its detractors as a government mouthpiece, and barred him from entering the facility, he said.
Tapfumaneyi told CPJ he took the officers’ remarks “as a joke” and attempted to enter the facility, when one of the officers pulled him back, shoved him, and threw his camera to the ground. Several officers then shoved and manhandled Tapfumaneyi “for a few minutes” until onlookers intervened and broke up the scuffle, he said.
Tapfumaneyi told CPJ that he sustained minor bruising and that the officers damaged his camera’s zoom lens.
Photos of the incident, which show officials manhandling the journalist, were published by local news outlets and were sent to CPJ by Tapfumaneyi.
Luke Tamborinyoka, deputy national spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, told CPJ via messaging app that he had personally apologized to Tapfumaneyi and expressed apologies to journalists generally about how Tapfumaneyi was treated by “our overzealous security personnel.” Tamborinyoka said the party was conducting an internal investigation into the incident and would “get to the bottom of this matter.”
Emmanuel Chimwanda, the party’s secretary for defense and security, issued a press release, which CPJ reviewed, promising that the security officials would be held responsible for their actions.