ZIMBABWEAN business news agency, The Source, was yesterday raided by the deputy sheriff in an attempt to recover allegedly stolen documents following a High Court order granted to Zimbabwe mobile phone operator Econet and Steward Bank on stories published on its site.
Hazel Ndebele/Fidelity Mhlanga
The High Court order granted permission to Econet and Steward Bank last week to have the online publication withdraw some of the stories it published on its site.
One of the stories alleged that Steward Bank was considering attaching residential stands to the tune of US$2,1 million to recover funds borrowed by a property firm owned by businessman Phillip Chiyangwa.
The other article stated government had borrowed US$30 million from Econet, disbursed through its banking subsidiary Steward Bank, in a deal brokered by former Econet chairman Tawanda Nyambirai.
Lawyer Chris Mhike said the team, which included police officers, combed computers at The Source as well as their drawers searching for information relating to the stories.
“At this stage, it is not clear whether the information collected is relevant to the subject stories. We hope to ascertain the relevance of collected information at the confirmation of the provisional order,” he said.
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary general Foster Dongozi said the raid was unacceptable.
“We condemn very strongly such barbaric acts; it is a moral disgrace and abuse of access to information as well as press freedom,” he said.
Media Institution of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe chapter director Nhlanhla Ngwenya said such assault can never be justified.
“It is unfortunate that Econet has joined forces with the state in corroding constitutional liberties in Zimbabwe,” he said.
“Media freedom is explicitly guaranteed in the constitution and if Econet can go to this extent how can we trust them with our personal data which they have through their network and their bank.”
Information minister Jonathan Moyo yesterday also condemned the raid, saying it posed a sinister threat to media freedom.
“The raid that has taken place at The Source today is the clearest evidence that some third parties with vested interests in society pose a far more sinister threat to media freedom and practice than has been previously understood in Zimbabwe,” Moyo said.
“While I appreciate that the raid was legally sanctioned, I however believe that the constitutionality of the outrageous action is not sustainable. In any event, what is really sad is the consequent feeling that this is the work of money palpably irresistible.”'