Four journalists from privately owned outlets, including Julia Ndlela (left) of NewsDay and Lovejoy Mtongwiza of 263Chat, were barred from covering an event featuring Zimbabwean First Lady Auxullia Mnangagwa. (Photo: Ndlela, Mtongwiza)

Journalists barred from covering Zimbabwean first lady

On July 19, 2022, a spokesperson for Zimbabwean First Lady Auxullia Mnangagwa barred four journalists from covering an event featuring Mnangagwa, according to news reports, a statement by the Zimbabwean chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, and two of the journalists, who spoke with CPJ.

The event marked the opening of a health center at the Marondera Female Prison in Marondera, east of the capital city of Harare, which was funded by the state-owned TelOne telecommunications company through Mnangagwa’s Angel of Hope charity foundation, according to those sources.

TelOne invited the four reporters from privately owned outlets—Julia Ndlela of the newspaper NewsDay, Lovejoy Mtongwiza from the news website 263Chat, Pelagia Mupurwa of the online broadcaster TechMagTV, and Aaron Ufumeli of the news website NewsHawk—to cover the opening, but Mnangagwa’s spokesperson John Manzongo blocked them, saying the first lady only wanted to allow coverage by state-owned media outlets, according to those news reports, Ndela and Mtongwiza, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and a statement by the nonprofit trade group Zimbabwe Online Content Creators, which CPJ reviewed.

Two uniformed prison officials prevented the journalists from covering the event and denied their requests to photograph it, ordering them to stay away from the state-media journalists who were allowed to cover it, according to those sources.

A TelOne official told the journalists that Manzongo would call the police if they did not leave, prompting them to leave the scene, according to Ndela and Mtongwiza.

“What is surprising is that we can cover the president without any problems, but it’s becoming hard to cover any event with the first lady,” Ndlela told CPJ. 

Previously, on January 21, Manzongo warned then-NewsDay journalist Moses Matenga, photographer Hilary Maradzinka, and three other journalists against publishing anything related to the first lady and her charity work in the city of Mazowe, according to Matenga and the Content Creators Association statement.

“We were told not to write anything to avoid trouble,” Matenga said.

CPJ called and texted Manzongo and Kudzai Dumbo, another of Manzongo’s spokespeople, but did not receive any replies.

When CPJ called Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services spokesperson superintendent Meya Khanyezi, the line abruptly disconnected when CPJ asked for comment. CPJ repeatedly called back but the line was busy.