Police detectives in Zimbabwe from the criminal investigations department’s law and order section on Thursday raided the Zimbabwe Independent offices looking for the newspaper’s editor, Dumisani Muleya. Similar raids were carried out at Sunday Mail offices in Harare and Chronicle offices in Bulawayo, with detectives looking for the state-owned newspapers’ editors.
In what seem to be co-ordinated attacks, unknown people who are suspected to be from state intelligence broke into Sunday Mail editor Edmund Kudzayi’s house and Chronicle editor Mduduzi Mathuthu’s Bulawayo home was robbed on Wednesday night.
Kudzayi had also reportedly been arrested on Thursday afternoon but this could not be confirmed at the time of going to press.
Mathuthu refused to comment, referring questions to Zimpapers group editor-in-chief Pikirayi Deketeke, who confirmed that the police had visited their offices and seized a desktop computer, an iPad and a mobile phone belonging to Kudzayi. Deketeke said he was not aware of whether they had a search warrant.
Three detectives, led by a senior officer who identified himself as Chief Superintendent Ngirishi, visited the Zimbabwe Independent newsroom shortly after 8am on Thursday, looking for Muleya. But Muleya was not at work as he is on leave. (The Independent is the Mail & Guardian‘s sister newspaper.)
Edith Kayinga, general manager for human capital at Alpha Media Holdings, the holding company of the Independent, confirmed the investigators’ visit. She said three detectives, without identification, would not disclose why they wanted Muleya, saying it was business but they declined to see any other editor. “They also wanted his mobile number and home address. I could not grant that request.”
At the Sunday Mail, about eight detectives raided the newsroom at about 4am on Thursday looking for Kudzayi, who had apparently been tipped off about the raid and fled from his offices a few minutes before the detectives arrived.
Sources at the paper said the detectives camped in the newsroom, demanding access to Kudzayi’s office.
“One of the managers opened Kudzayi’s office at about 6am and the detectives ransacked the office looking for documents. They took his computer, laptop and cellphone,” said a reporter.
The crackdown on the media is being linked to Zanu-PF’s factional battles to succeed Mugabe.
A Zanu-PF insider and security agent said Kudzayi was viewed as a security threat.
Kudzayi and Mathuthu were the subject of a Zanu-PF politburo meeting on June 4 after some party officials linked to Vice-President Joice Mujuru supplied Mugabe with a dossier, in which they alleged Information Minister Jonathan Moyo wanted to destroy the party from within, by using the media to soil party and government officials, among other things.
The politburo is Zanu-PF’s highest decision-making body.
After that politburo meeting, Mugabe publicly attacked Moyo, accusing him of being a “weevil, devil incarnate and a fool” but Moyo was seemingly forgiven after a highly charged meeting with the president.
Allies of Mujuru who spoke to the M&G accuse Moyo of using the media in his attempt to derail her efforts to succeed Mugabe. They also accuse him of shunning editors who have loyally served Zanu-PF for many years and instead appointing “hostile editors”, citing Kudzayi and Mathuthu as examples.
Kudzayi, who attracted Mugabe’s anger in the past when a website he ran, African Aristocrat, ran a story of the alleged gang rape of Mugabe’s only daughter Bona by Tanzanian students. Mugabe’s wife Grace publicly denied the story and sources said she was livid after learning that Kudzayi had been appointed as editor of the Sunday Mail, the biggest state-controlled weekly newspaper.
At the time Grace publicly denied the story, saying her daughter – who was about to get married – was a virgin.
Prior to Mathuthu’s appointment he was editor of NewZimbabwe.com, a British-based news website, also seen as anti-Zanu-PF.
Zanu-PF officials who want Moyo axed told the M&G they would fight on and ensure he and his editors are booted out.