My horror encounter with Finance deputy minister Terrence Mukupe on Thursday May 24, will remain etched in my mind forever.
Early in the day a colleague at Spot FM, Chamunorwa Murava, invited me to his programme, Focus, to discuss an amateur video of Mukupe addressing a Zanu PF cell meeting in Harare’s affluent surburb of Mandara.
The video clip was the source of a lead story which I had recently written for NewsDay in which the deputy minister said the army had not taken power from then President Robert Mugabe so that they could hand it over to MDC-T leader Nelson Chamisa, should the latter win the forthcoming elections.
The invitation was for me a chance to engage with the audience alongside Mukupe. I was supposed to go out with my wife, Florence, after the programme, so she accompanied me to Pockets Hill studios.
The minister was already there, with two aides, when we arrived. I exchanged pleasantries with the three gentlemen.
For the first few minutes of the show, all was well. Then Mukupe claimed I had been hired to soil his image and done stories just to bury his political life. The allegations were baseless.
I responded that in my 15-year journalism career, I had only done three stories on him: when he assaulted a top ministry official, when he made the allegations that army would not allow Chamisa to take power and another on a social media onslaught against him.
This was my first real life interaction with him. In the midst of the discussion, he stood up as if to leave the studio but turned on me, full of rage.
The last transmission in the radio programme was me crying out for help, “But minister why do you want to assault me.”
His aides tried to restrain him as he said I needed to be taught a lesson. My wife captured the moment of madness on her phone, a Samsung S7 Edge. Mukupe then charged towards her and wrestled the phone from my wife with the assistance of his aides.
The deputy minister took the phone after tearing her jacket and dared us to report the matter to whoever we wanted.
Unfortunately, Murava’s studio does not have cameras so the only evidence of the vicious attack is in the phone which he stole.
ZBC staffers were helpful in trying to call security and eventually getting a soldier at the complex to escort Florence and myself to our car.
We then drove to Highlands police station to make a report of theft, malicious damage to property and assault. Then all hell broke loose. Mukupe was already at the police station filing a report against us. The police handling the matter then told us we were the accused persons. We were made to wait in a little room while Mukupe was being attended to by a sergeant on duty that day.
After almost an hour, a very polite officer came to the holding room and began to record a statement from Florence. She was very helpful and tried to assist us to recover the phone from Mukupe. The deputy minister was, however, allowed to leave before we had filed our own report.
Just a few weeks ago, Commissioner General Police Godwin Matanga told the nation the force was adopting a professional way of policing.
“I want to stress that, I take greater exception to commanders who develop jelly legs and become jittery in fear of taking prompt and appropriate action when the ‘so called’ political bigwigs commit crimes, be they politically motivated or otherwise,” he said.
Sadly, his officers at Highlands police station failed the test. They opened a docket against the minister but did not bother to get a warned and cautioned statement from him, they decided to make it a summons case despite justifiable evidence that the minister could use his influence to interfere with witnesses.
The police also opened a docket against Florence and myself, threatened us with detention but did not even bother to inform us about the charges being laid against us and neither did they collect warned and cautioned statements from us.
Words previously uttered by Mukupe begun to make sense to me – he was above the law, this is why he dared us to report to whomsoever we wanted.
Florence did not sleep she had nightmare’s the whole night.
There was heartfelt outpouring of love and concern from colleagues. AMH Chief Operating Officer, Kangai Maukazuva, kept checking on me together with the managing director, and Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary-general Foster Dongozi.
Some people I never knew had my number called me and encouraged me to remain strong. Others, however, went political and also insulted my wife for accompanying me to the studio.
My call is to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a man I know personally, to make good his word.
It is time for him to ensure that the new dispensation is indeed “new”. Some kind of action will comfort not only my family, but the rest of the nation.