POLICE yesterday arrested the editor of The Sunday Mail newspaper amid fears of a renewed clampdown on journalists precipitated by President Robert Mugabe’s unprecedented attack on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo.
Edmund Kudzayi reportedly handed himself over to the police after armed security agents ransacked his office at Herald House in Harare and seized his work tools.
At the time, Kudzayi was being hunted by the security agents, Chronicle editor Mduduzi Mathuthu’s Bulawayo home, was being ransacked by burglars. A fortnight ago Mugabe labelled Moyo a devil incarnate for allegedly hiring journalists that were hostile to Zanu PF and using them to divide the fractious party.
The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) condemned the harassment of the two journalists.
According to ZUJ, armed police stormed Kudzayi’s office and house where they allegedly took his computer. At Mathuthu’s Mahatshula North home, household items were taken, including a television set and food despite the presence of a security guard throughout the night.
Police from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) also visited the Zimbabwe Independent offices asking to interview the paper’s editor Dumisani Muleya.
Edith Kayinga, general manager for human capital at Alpha Media Holdings, which is the holding company for the Zimbabwe Independent, Southern Eye, NewsDay and The Standard, confirmed that detectives wanted to interview Muleya who 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,” she said.
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.
“ZUJ is deeply concerned and appalled by the apparently co-ordinated harassment of journalists in Bulawayo and Harare this morning and would like to urge the Zimbabwean authorities to guarantee their safety and protection,” ZUJ said in a statement.
“This morning, the Chronicle editor had his house burgled while armed men stormed the house of his colleague at the Sunday Mail where they found his parents.
“ZUJ calls on the government to immediately reveal the reasons for detaining Kudzayi and why Muleya is being hunted.”
“Above all, we demand that the safety and protection of the three colleagues be guaranteed. We condemn the use of fear as a weapon to cow journalists.”
Kudzayi was reportedly being questioned at the Harare Central Police Station. ZUJ demanded assurances that the burglary at Mathuthu’s house had nothing to do with the “unfortunate” public rebuke of Moyo by Mugabe.
Moyo is accused by allies of Vice-President Joice Mujuru of using the media to derail their plan for her to succeed Mugabe.
Sources who sat in a politburo meeting two weeks ago said ministers linked to Mujuru had insisted that Mathuthu and Kudzayi be dismissed.
Mathuthu is a former editor of NewZImbabwe.com, a United Kingdom-based online publication often cited as a project of the opposition, while Kudzayi is linked to 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”.
Zimpapers group editor-in-chief Pikirayi Deketeke confirmed that the police had visited their offices and seized a desktop computer, iPad and a mobile phone belonging to Kudzayi.
Deketeke said he could not comment on the burglary at Mathuthu’s house and said he was not aware if Kudzayi had been arrested or what charges he was being sought for.
Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Mandlenkosi Moyo said he had not yet received any reports concerning the ransacking of Mathuthu’s house.