20 June 2014

Zimbabwe: Sunday Mail Editor Spends Night in Police Custody

Photo: The Herald
Sunday Mail editor, Edmund Kudzayi.

The editor of the Sunday Mail, Edmund Kudzayi, spent the night in police custody, with little information coming out from the authorities about his incarceration. He was arrested when he handed himself in to police in Harare on Thursday.

Mduduzi Mathuthu, the editor of the Bulawayo based The Chronicle used social media site Twitter to say that Kudzayi had been charged with plotting insurgency and terrorism and undermining the authority of the President.

The police confirmed the arrest but have not commented on the charges. ZimPapers group editor-in-chief Pikirayi Deketeke also confirmed the arrest of Kudzayi but could not elaborate on the charges.

There is speculation however that his arrest maybe connected with investigations into unmasking the social media figure Baba Jukwa that reportedly tormented the ruling ZANU PF party prior to last year's elections. Kudzayi is believed to have been behind the pro ZANU PF Amai Jukwa Facebook character.

The Amai Jukwa page, mostly critical of the MDC-T and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai , gave birth to Baba Jukwa, the iconic character that alleged that it was spilling the beans on President Mugabe and his officials. Some of what Baba Jukwa wrote on Facebook was confirmed to have been correct by Rugare Gumbo, the ZANU PF spokesman, suggesting people in the party leaked information.

According to the laws contained in the new constitution, the police are allowed to hold Kudzayi for 48 hours, after which they will either have to charge and take him to court or release him. They have until 7pm on Saturday to do so. Whether the police will abide by the new constitution remains to be seen.

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, who lured Kudzayi from the UK two months ago and offered him the Sunday Mail job, said judging from the way he was arrested, the editor may be facing a serious offence.

Speaking in Bulawayo on Friday, Moyo sidestepped the sensitive subject by appearing to agree with the action taken by the police. He described the arrest of Kudzayi as an indication that there is the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us Kudzayi's arrest has sent jitters among journalists in the capital and no one feels free to talk about it.

'There is a blackout of information concerning Kudzayi. Usually when the police arrest a journalist there is so much noise from members of the fraternity,'

Muchemwa said. On Thursday MISA Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists did issue statements denouncing the arrest and demanding to know the charges he was facing.

But Muchemwa said even outspoken journalists in the country are not sure what to say, maybe because this is the first time that a senior scribe from the state media has been arrested and thrown into custody.

Meanwhile, the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) group editor, Stanley Gama and senior writer Fungi Kwaramba have been cleared of criminal defamation charges after a Harare court ruled the law they were charged with had been declared illegal by the Constitutional court.

The two journalists were being sued by controversial businessman Kamal Khalfan over stories their newspaper published, linking the Omani citizen to alleged underhand deals in Zimbabwe.

Gama told us the ruling by the ConCourt to outlaw the draconian law was a welcome development to the journalism fraternity as a whole. He said the law was being used by the elite and politicians to harass and stop journalists from investigating them.

But journalists should not breathe a sigh of relief too soon as the arrest of Kudzayi shows. At the same time as police were looking for him, they were also looking for Dumisani Muleya, the editor of the Zimbabwe Independent. If the authorities can't use criminal defamation to get you, they will certainly find other ways.

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