BULAWAYO – Two journalists were detained by state security agents at State House in Bulawayo on Thursday while covering an event hosted by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Documentary maker Zenzele Ndebele, the director of the Bulawayo-based Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE), and cameraman Sautsani Ali were detained at the State House entrance where they intended to attend a meeting between Mnangagwa and civil society organisations.

The Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) said in an update that Ndebele had been charged under section 43 of the Criminal Law Code which criminalises “possession of offensive weapons at public gatherings.”

“He was found in possession of a used teargas canister,” MISA said, adding that he faces a fine of up to $2,000 or up to 5 years in prison if convicted.

Colleagues at CITE told ZimLive that following his arrest, Ndebele arrived at their offices in the company of three men wearing suits.

“They went into his office for about 10 minutes and left without saying a word to us. We don’t know what they were looking for,” one colleague said.

Another journalist who was at State House revealed how they were frisked as they went in, and ordered to leave their phones at the security checkpoint.

“I arrived after Zenzele was taken away, and from what I heard they searched his vehicle and found one or more used teargas canisters. He told the state security agents that he collected them during the January 14 fuel protests and intends to use them for an upcoming documentary, but he was arrested,” the journalist said, asking not to be named.

Ndebele has produced two documentaries on the 1980s Gukurahundi genocide, the second of which earned him a visit to Bulawayo Central Police Station where he was questioned and released.

Meanwhile, Bulawayo journalists complained that they were prevented from attending the State House event despite being accredited with the Zimbabwe Media Commission.

Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary Foster Dongozi said: “It’s totally unacceptable. The ZMC press card is written on the back: ‘The holder of this card is accredited with the ZMC. Please accord her/him every assistance in the discharge of her/his duties.’ We hope talk of new ways of doing things (by Mnangagwa’s government) can be concretised.”