The battle lines have been drawn between Zimbabwe’s security service chiefs – the power behind President Robert Mugabe’s throne – as the army, intelligence services and police clash over the arrest of Edmund Kudzayi, the editor of the state-controlled weekly Sunday Mail, who is facing charges of insurgency, banditry, sabotage and terrorism stemming from a controversial cyberspace operation.
Kudzayi was arrested by the police on June 19 for allegedly creating a Facebook page called Baba Jukwa run by a faceless operator dedicated to relentlessly attacking and denigrating Mugabe, senior Cabinet ministers and Zanu-PF officials, and inciting the public against the government.
On Thursday the High Court granted Kudzayi a $5 200 bail. Kudzayi was ordered to surrender the password for his Gmail email address as part of the bail conditions. He was also ordered to report twice a day at the Criminal Investigations Department’s law and order section, surrender his passport and not to travel 40 kilometres out of Harare without the court’s consent. Kudzayi was also ordered to surrender title deeds to his Hillside property and not to interfere with State witnesses and investigations.
Kudzayi’s brother, Philip, has also been arrested in connection with the issue. A Sunday Mail web administrator, Robin Chaibva, was also picked up for questioning last weekend, and the police last week issued a list of 10 more people they were looking for in connection with the same case, which has left army, police and intelligence services chiefs at each other’s throats amid claims the issue is rooted in the leadership succession fight.
The state claims that Kudzayi, who was hired by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces as a computer hacking consultant to trace Baba Jukwa, is the actual Baba Jukwa as he allegedly created a Gmail account [email protected] using mobile cellular network Econet line 077?144?6541.
As a result of the investigations with the army, Kudzayi published a story in the Sunday Mail recently accusing Johannesburg-based Zimbabweans Mkhululi Chimoio and Mxolisi Ncube of running the Baba Jukwa account – an accusation they have denied.
Documents seen by the Mail & Guardian and generated by Kudzayi during his investigations together with the army, show that Kudzayi apparently interviewed a purported ex-girlfriend of Chimoio, one Precious Makuvha. She claimed that her former boyfriend was one of the administrators of the Baba Jukwa Facebook page.
The transcript of the interview could be produced in court as part of evidence by the defence. The transcript shows that Makuvha was connected to Kudzayi through Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who had contacts with her.
Kasukuwere could not be reached for comment.
Kudzayi, who has admitted to running another anonymous internet operator called Amai Jukwa, which countered Baba Jukwa and supported Zanu-PF, denies he is Baba Jukwa and has described the charges as “laughable”.
The case has roped in Cabinet ministers, including Jonathan Moyo from the department of information, media and broadcasting services, and Kasukuwere, as well as military chiefs who worked with Kudzayi to trace Baba Jukwa.
Kudzayi says senior government and Zanu-PF officials who fear being linked to the subversive internet project orchestrated his arrest as a calculated pre-emptive strike to protect themselves.
Sources close to the investigation say Kudzayi’s collaboration with the army has triggered conflict between the military, the police and the country’s main security service, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
A well-connected source told the M&G this week that senior defence forces commanders – including military boss General Constantine Chiwenga, who hired Kudzayi to hunt down Baba Jukwa and to deal with other cybersecurity issues – were dismayed and fuming that police and the CIO were behind the arrest of the youthful editor and IT expert, especially as he had worked with them to flush out the anonymous blogger and had helped Zanu-PF to win elections last year.
“If you look deep into this case, it’s like a game of chess. Kudzayi is just a little pawn in a great power game,” a source familiar with the issue said. “He is being used as a political pawn following Mugabe’s statements that Zanu–PF has been infiltrated and is now infested by weevils which are burrowing through its fabric.”
Clash of generals
The source further said the Baba Jukwa case has degenerated into a clash of generals featuring Chiwenga and other senior defence forces commanders on the one side and CIO director general, retired Major-General Happyton Bonyongwe and Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri on the other side. Prisons Commissioner, retired major general Paradzai Zimondi is said to be backing the Bonyongwe camp.
The quarrel and divisions among the generals seem to mirror fault lines within Zanu-PF as Chiwenga and his group are linked to the justice minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s faction, and Bonyongwe, Chihuri and Zimondi reportedly back Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
“The battle lines are drawn between the army, police and CIO. It’s a quarrel of generals … Chiwenga and his camp versus Bonyongwe and Chihuri and their squad,” the source said. “Army commanders aligned to Chiwenga want Kudzayi released, but the CIO and police want to nail him. It’s now a tug-of-war, an explosive situation. Security forces are on a collision path.”
Another source said the case has now divided the Joint Operations Command (JOC), which brings together army, intelligence and police chiefs.
“JOC is now divided between the Mujuru and Mnangagwa camp, although it is fair to say there are some of its members who are either neutral or not interested,” the source said.
“Not everyone can be compartmentalised into Zanu-PF’s main political factions. JOC or the security forces have their own internal dynamics, which are not necessarily similar to those in Zanu-PF.”
Mugabe’s fierce attacks against Moyo seem to have triggered the problem. In an unexpected assault recently, the president lunged at his minister, describing him as divisive, retrogressive, counter-revolutionary, the devil incarnate and a weevil.
He also accused him of hiring “enemies”, a reference to Kudzayi and Chronicle editor Mduduzi Mathuthu, to run state-controlled newspapers.
Mathuthu had his house broken into the day Kudzayi was arrested. Although the police initially said they were also looking for Zimbabwe Independent editor Dumisani Muleya before seemingly abandoning their search, it was not clear whether the issues were related.
So serious was the Kudzayi controversy that it had to be discussed in Zanu-PF’s decision-making politburo last month before Mugabe’s outburst against Moyo.
Kudzayi has linked his troubles to Mugabe’s diatribes against Moyo, suggesting a hidden political agenda.
“I submit that the charges I’m facing are false and this is a reckless attempt by the powers that be to try to show the head of state and government President Robert Mugabe that they have started to deal with ‘weevils’ in the Zanu-PF party – yet there is not even an iota of evidence that I committed the offences in question,” he said in his bail application last week.
Kudzayi is also accused of ”undermining the authority [of] or insulting the president and publishing false statements prejudicial to the state”.
“This is clearly a trial and error by the state in seeking to resolve the Baba Jukwa mystery,” Kudzayi said in his bail application. “The state is just stabbing in the dark hoping that along the way as they arrest innocent people like me and victimise the same they would find the real Baba Jukwa.”
Another source said police, with the help of the CIO, arrested Kudzayi in a bid to flush out ministers, particularly Moyo and Kasukuwere, they strongly suspect were working with him behind the scenes, not just on the Amai Jukwa operation but also on Baba Jukwa even though they issued a public disclaimer saying they were not out to get any minister.
The case seems to have poisoned the environment within the corridors of power, leaving a trail of divisions and suspicions in its wake among ministers, security chiefs and Zanu-PF officials ahead of the party’s elective congress in December.
Implicated: Environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere has been drawn into the Baba Jukwa scandal.