TWO journalists accused of administering the rabble- rousing Baba Jukwa page have, through their lawyer, issued summons against the Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Limited (Zimpapers). Mxolisi Ncube and Mkhululi Chimoio are suing Zimpapers’ titles, The Herald and The Sunday Mail, along with their publishers at the High Court for US$100 million in defamation damages.
Ncube and Chimoio claim they were defamed by the two State-owned publications, which linked them to the Baba Jukwa Facebook character that has been a thorn in the back side of the ruling ZANU-PF government. They argued that the reports not only affected their professional integrity, but had also cast them in bad light as they were understood by their readers to mean that both of them were “untrustworthy, dangerous saboteurs and criminally-minded terrorists who were bent on spreading alarm and despondency within the state of Zimbabwe and who were also actively involved in planning and plotting treasonous acts with the intention of over-throwing the constitutionally elected government of Zimbabwe.”
Obert Gutu, the counsel from Gutu and Chikowore Legal Practitioners, said Zimpapers had ignored a letter of demand hand-delivered to them at the end of last month.
“The defendants ignored our letters of demand, after the expiration of the seven day period that we gave them within which they had to respond; we have since prepared and issued summons against them out of the High Court in Harare,” said Gutu. “We are not in the business of issuing empty threats. If people ignore our letters of demand, we invariably proceed with legal action. We mean serious business.”
Zimpapers has 10 days within which to respond and challenge the claims by the two journalists. In a surprising twist of events, police authorities have linked The Sunday Mail editor, Edmund Kudzayi, through their own investigations to Baba Jukwa. This has since led to the arrest of Kudzayi who was in police custody for two weeks. Authorities have already released the names of 14 suspects in the ongoing mystery of Baba Jukwa as they attempt to bring finality to the case.
Baba Jukwa shot to notoriety last year, with claims of corruption, assassination plots and reports of President Robert Mugabe’s ill-health. The State said it would need a month to prepare for the trial which will likely kick off next month, after Kudzayi was released on bail a fortnight ago. Ncube and Chimoio said the arrest of Kudzayi had absolved them of any wrongdoing.