Africa

Mugabe succession battle fuels media crackdown

Teldah Mawarire

Political factional fights in the Zanu-PF have led to a media crackdown with suspicious break-ins and raids on three editors' offices.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. (AFP)

A crackdown on the media, stoked by political factional fights in Zanu-PF, has gripped Zimbabwe following suspicious break-ins at the homes and raids on offices of three editors by the police’s central investigation department.

The raids and an arrest come after President Robert Mugabe lashed out at his Information Minister Jonathan Moyo for appointing editors at state-owned newspapers who have been critical of the party in the past. Moyo, Mugabe said, was a fool, a weevil and a devil incarnate for trying to destroy the party from within.

Moyo is accused by allies of the faction headed by vice-president Joice Mujuru of using the media to derail their plan for Mujuru to succeed Mugabe. Sources who sat in a politburo meeting two weeks ago said ministers linked to Mujuru had insisted at the meeting that editors Mduduzi Mathuthu and Edmund Kudzayi be dismissed. The politburo is Zanu-PF’s highest decision-making body.

On Wednesday night, the home of Chronicle editor Mduduzi Mathuthu was ransacked and household items were taken, including a television set and food. On the same night, the home of Sunday Mail editor Edmund Kudzayi was also broken into. On Thursday morning, the police raided the office of Kudzayi and he was later arrested. The charge that Kudzayi faces could not be confirmed. Both papers fall under the Zimpapers stable, which is controlled by the information ministry.

Police from the central investigations department were also seeking the editor of the Zimbabwe Independent Dumisani Muleya. The Independent is the Mail & Guardian’s sister newspaper.   

Edith Kayinga, general manager for human capital at Alpha Media Holdings, which is the holding company of the Independent, confirmed that investigators visited the paper earlier asking to interview Muleya, who was not in the office as he is on leave.

“Three detectives came to our offices asking for Muleya. They also wanted his mobile number and home address. I could not grant that request.” Kayinga said the three, who had no identification, would not disclose why they wanted Muleya, saying it was business but declined to see any other editor.

‘Pure virgin’
Moyo made the two surprise appointments of Mathuthu and Kudzayi to the Zimpapers Group of newspapers this year. Mathuthu is a former editor of Newzimbabwe.com, a United Kingdom-based online publication often cited as a project of the opposition, while Kudzayi broke a story which alleged that Mugabe’s daughter, Bona, was gang-raped by Tanzanian students. The story embarrassed the first family and was denied by first lady Grace Mugabe, who publicly insisted that her daughter, who was about to get married, was a “pure virgin”.

Mathuthu refused to comment, referring question to Zimpapers group editor-in-chief Pikirayi Deketeke, who confirmed the police had visited their offices and seized a desktop computer, iPad and a mobile phone belonging to Kudzayi. He said he was not aware if they had a search warrant.

Deketeke said he could not comment on the burglary at Mathuthu’s house, but he said he was not aware if Kudzayi had been arrested or what charges he was being sought for.

Sources in Zanu-PF told the M&G on Thursday that the arrests were political and linked to Zanu-PF’s factional fights to succeed Mugabe.

Last week the M&G reported that the Mujuru faction had been behind the attack on Moyo by Mugabe, after it put together dossiers given to Mugabe detailing how the state media had recently turned against the government by reporting that certain ministers linked to Mujuru were corrupt.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba was not taking calls at the time of publishing.

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