The ongoing treason trial of Sunday Mail editor Edmund Kudzayi has caused turmoil in the Zimbabwe National Army. Embarrassed officers are at pains to explain how he was engaged to investigate the Baba Jukwa project without the necessary background checks having been done.
Kudzayi, who was arrested two weeks ago, revealed in his bail application that he was hired as a consultant by the Ministry of Defence’s military intelligence unit to identify Facebook character Baba Jukwa who held the nation enthralled with inside information of the inner workings of Zanu (PF).
Together with his brother, Phillip, he is charged with subverting a constitutionally established government, undermining the authority of the President and failing to secure small firearm ammunition.
The state alleges that Kudzayi described President Robert Mugabe as a tyrant. He is also accused of publishing a story that claimed that Bona, Mugabe’s daughter, was at gang raped during a college social event. He is accused of using the Baba Jukwa Facebook page to incite Zimbabweans to revolt against the government.
Sources said Mugabe was livid that the army hired Kudzayi despite his “hostile” past.
“HE has demanded explanations from Mnangagwa and Sekeramayi,” said a source privy to the goings on.
Emmerson Mnangagwa was the Defence Minister when Kudzayi was hired. The position went to Sydney Sekeramayi when Mugabe announced a new cabinet following the 2013 elections.
“The problem is that both ministers are insisting that they were not told about Kudzayi, leaving the buck with General (Constantine) Chiwenga,” added the source.
Mnangagwa has distanced himself from the whole saga, insisting that Chiwenga, environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere and information minister Jonathan Moyo must offer explanations regarding consulting Kudzayi.
One of the sources said Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), had been ordered to compile a report regarding the matter and should have briefed Mugabe by end of last week. Chiwenga is reported to have been fully aware of the involvement of Kudzayi, after being approached by Kasukuwere, who recommended that they work with the editor to unmask Baba Jukwa.
It is not yet clear why Kasukuwere leapfrogged Mnangagwa, a senior colleague in government, and went straight to Chiwenga before roping in Moyo, who then worked in the Zanu (PF) commissariat.
“Kudzayi was introduced as a key resource person with valuable technical skills and no-one bothered to check his background. Things happened so fast, mainly because cabinet ministers were involved,” said another source.
“The military is now involved in a fierce blame game and, depending on how HE treats the matter, some senior officers in military intelligence might be disciplined as a way of managing the crisis. There is concern that bringing Edmund near internal intelligence systems could have compromised the army,” he added. The army has reportedly been ruffled by Kudzayi’s affidavit, which claims he received payment for his consultancy work for the army.
“The chefs knew that he (Kudzayi) was paid thousands of dollars, but there is fear that people will start asking where they got the money since the army is broke,” added the source.
The army, believed to have a heavy presence in the Marange diamond fields where it reportedly owns a sizeable stake, has in the past been accused of diverting gem proceeds to fund clandestine operations.
According to Kudzayi’s affidavit, the army refused to cooperate with the police in investigating Baba Jukwa, preferring to monopolise the information that he had provided from his exploration of the faceless character’s Gmail and Facebook accounts.
As reported by this paper recently, the police ended up joining hands with the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) in parallel investigations that eventually led to Kudzayi’s arrest.
Kudzayi and his brother face life in prison if convicted in the trial that the police last week said had been widened to include 10 others suspects. He is expected in court today (Thursday) for his bail hearing, which was postponed last week as the state needed more time to study Kudzayi’s “voluminous” submissions.