21 June 2014

Zimbabwe: Sunday Mail Editor Faces Life in the Can

Photo: The Herald
Sunday Mail editor, Edmund Kudzayi.

Sunday Mail editor, Edmund Kudzayi, faces life in prison if convicted on the shock charges laid against him when he appeared before a Harare magistrate on Saturday.

Kudzayi was arrested on Thursday and has been charged with "attempting to commit an act of insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism" and "subverting the constitutional government".

All the charges carry a life sentence upon conviction.

In addition, he also faces the lesser charges of failing to secure firearms, insulting the president and publishing falsehoods.

On Saturday Kudzayi was not asked to plead and his lawyer, Joseph Mandizha of Mandizha and Company, told reporters his client would return to court Monday for a bail hearing.

Police will claim Kudzayi was behind the controversial Facebook character Baba Jukwa which angered President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party with scandalous and damaging exposes in the lead-up to last year's elections.

Kudzayi was appointed Mail editor in April this year. He returned home from the Diaspora well ahead of the July 31 elections and is understood to have helped the party campaign for the vote.

He is also believed to have been behind the pro-Mugabe and Zanu PF supporting Facebook character and blogger Mai Jukwa.

A party official told NewZimbabwe.com: "Whatever they are charging him with is crazy for these reasons; Kudzayi defended the party as Mai Jukwa, produced Zanu PF campaign videos ahead of the election.

"He was accepted by the Zanu PF information department at party headquarters and was active in coming up with the election manifesto, campaign billboards and ZimAsset."

Kudzayi's arrest came as a surprise because state media journalists are ordinarily never bothered on politically related charges, with the "honour" an exclusive preserve of those working for prickly privately-owned newspapers.

But control of the government's vast media interests has become crucial as factional fights in Zanu PF over the succession of President Robert Mugabe reach fever pitch.

The veteran leader, in power since independence back in 1980, won another five-year mandate last year and has indicated he would serve out the new term in full.

But that has not stopped increasingly impatient lieutenants from plotting behind the scenes for a takeover as leader of the party and, possibly, the country. They are aware Mugabe is 90 years old and dogged by failing health and other issues that come with old age.

Vice President Joice Mujuru and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa have long been considered the main contenders to replace the ageing leader.

Both deny any interest in the job but even Mugabe is not fooled. The president was recently moved to tell both it was not down to the two of them alone.

Meanwhile, the Mujuru faction accuses Information Minister Jonathan Moyo of using his control of the State media to vilify its members.

The faction believes recent corruption exposes by the Zimpapers stable deliberately targeted its members even though the rival group rallying behind Mnangagwa is widely believed to be just as shady, if not worse.

Mugabe appeared to back Mujuru when he publicly attacked Moyo, accusing him of appointing opposition activists as editors, kicking out journalists loyal to Zanu PF and its government.

In addition, the Zanu PF leader accused Moyo of using control of the media to set leaders against each other as well as working to destroy Zanu PF from within.

Moyo, who later met Mugabe to discuss their differences, suggested there was no connection between Kudzayi's arrest and the president's angry rant.

"Nothing special is happening here, depending on how one looks at it," Moyo said in Bulawayo Friday.

Moyo also appeared to suggest that the arrest would give Kudzayi (and the minister too, possibly) an opportunity to clear the clouds of suspicion around him.

"It's very good to know people have an opportunity to resolve an issue through the legal process in terms of our law, in terms of our constitution," said Moyo.

"That's always far better than seeking to resolve an issue through other means. That is the essence of constitutional democracy, that a matter, however important, is ultimately resolved in terms of the law.

"I think all rational, fair minded people would say or understand that when police take action or when law enforcement agents take action, it should be to give us, from a legal, constitutional view, some relief that at least the rule of law or the course of justice is taking place."

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