TWO journalists earlier suspected of running the Baba Jukwa Facebook page are filing a US$100 million defamation lawsuit against the State media and New Zimbabwe.com after they carried reports linking them to the faceless internet mole. A Harare lawyer representing the two scribes, Obert Gutu, revealed this week that Mxolisi Ncube and Mkhululi Chimoi "have been vindicated" by the sudden turn of events, which he said indirectly helped prove their innocence.
The arrest of The Sunday Mail editor, Edmund Kudzayi last Thursday added a fresh twist to the mystery over the identity of Baba Jukwa, as authorities are linking the youthful newspaper gatekeeper to the rabble-rousing Facebook page that gained notoriety last year for dishing out ZANU-PF secrets. Kudzayi, who is being accused of operating the Baba Jukwa Facebook page which has over 400 000 followers, has been formally charged of insurgency, terrorism and an attempt to unseat a constitutionally elected government.
By his own admission, Kudzayi, in an article written earlier this month, has said he was behind the Amai Jukwa character which was given, since February 2013, acres of space in the daily Herald and on New Zimbabwe.com as a columnist. His admission alone is likely to open Kudzayi (Mai Jukwa) to an avalanche of lawsuits from those that the pseudo character went after just as those who were demonised by Baba Jukwa are baying for that character’s blood.
The Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Limited (Zimpapers), as the publishers of the State daily The Herald, along with New Zimbabwe.com, will also suffer the collateral damage. At the time of going to print, there were also indications that even the Charles Utete-led Zimpapers board could be taken to task for opening the business to potential liability.
It is, however, now left in the hands of authorities to prove how Kudzayi was running both characters whose content under Amai Jukwa was singing praises for the ruling party and yet under Baba Jukwa was a thorn in the backside of the powers-that-be. With the court’s eye now on Kudzayi, South African-based journalists, Ncube and Chimoi, are not walking away without putting up a fight against Zimpapers, publishers of several titles, among them The Herald and The Sunday Mail and the United Kingdom-based New Zimbabwe.com.
"The amount of the lawsuit is US$100 million," Gutu said. "Because The Herald and The Sunday Mail are published by same publisher, we will sue the editor of The Herald, the editor of The Sunday Mail and Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Limited which are their publishers they will be sued jointly and severally, the one paying the other to be absolved."
In addition to the multi-million dollar lawsuit, Ncube and Chimoi are also demanding retractions and apologies to be carried out by the three publications.
"As for the United Kingdom-based New Zimbabwe.com, which we have since established is operating from Birmingham, we have liaised with a firm of solicitors in the UK to institute legal action on our behalf against the editor of New Zimbabwe.com and its publishers," said Gutu.
A letter of demand is set to be hand delivered to Herald House with the same delivered to New Zimbabwe.com’s base in the UK.
"The letters of demand are now ready and we will be handing these over to Zimpapers. I am just waiting for the go ahead from my clients to hand deliver these and we will demand for a retraction of the stories to be made within seven days of receipt of the letter," said Gutu.
"In addition to the lawsuit, we will be demanding an apology as the story has done damage to their reputation and ability to discharge their duties as journalists in their profession."
Gutu also alleged that his clients were now living in fear and do not even know why they were targeted and identified as Baba Jukwa. "My clients live in fear while in South Africa and are fearful of returning back home as a result of the claims levelled against them. The latest developments around this issue are a clear sign that they had nothing to do with Baba Jukwa and more explosive details are likely to emerge."
In a written affidavit, the investigating officer in the case against Kudzayi, Crispen Makedenge, said their own investigations into the matter had revealed that The Sunday Mail editor was the one in control of the Baba Jukwa Gmail account. "His details were on the recovery panel of the said account, that is, his e-mail address …furthermore investigations revealed that the account was never hacked into," said Makedenge.
Authorities have been bamboozled as they attempted since last year to find the person or persons behind the hugely popular Baba Jukwa Facebook page which has a cult-like following. Its popularity was catapulted by juicy details of infighting in the ruling party and claims of corruption against senior party officials — revelations which rattled ZANU-PF’s rank and file.