EDMUND Kudzayi might have remembered the dictum ‘muZanu PF tamba wakachenjera’ – which loosely means in the ruling party one is best advised to sleep with one eye open – as he read his letter of dismissal from Zimpapers last Wednesday.
Although Zimpapers is a private company listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, it is majority-owned by the government and Zanu PF controls editorial appointments at its leading newspapers.
President Robert Mugabe confirmed the party’s stranglehold on the company when he famously attacked then information minister Jonathan Moyo for allegedly firing loyal editors and replacing them with previously treacherous characters.
Mugabe’s rant was thought to have related to the appointment of Kudzayi, among others.
When he took over as editor of the weekly Sunday Mail, Zimpapers’ biggest selling title, the appointment was announced with banner headlines by the company but his name was not even mentioned as his replacement was confirmed last month.
Company sources said then that Kudzai had been promoted “downstairs” as head of digital services.
And it appeared he would survive in some capacity at Herald House when his name was excluded from the 100 employees dismissed a week later under the infamous Supreme Court ruling allowing companies to dismiss workers without retrenchment packages.
But barely a month after his supposed promotion as head of digital services, Kudzayi was last week told the game was over.
The dismissal ended a tumultuous three years for the 29-year-old in which he helped Zanu PF campaign for the 2013 elections before being jailed on allegations of trying to topple President Mugabe.
His departure was confirmed by Zimpapers chief executive Pikirayi Deketeke who said it was part of a re-organisation exercise underway at the company.
Deketeke did not explain why he had had a change of heart and decided to fire Kudzayi barely three weeks after offering him the position of head of digital services.
“We have two journalists interested in digital media which Kudzayi had a passion for and these are going to cover the gap he has left,” said the CEO.
Sources however, said Deketeke, who is understood to have backed Kudzayi, may have come under increasing pressure from more powerful forces in the ruling party.
Kudzayi would not be drawn on the development but he confirmed his departure to NewZimbabwe.com Tuesday night and simply said: “I have left Zimpapers to pursue other interests.”
Previously based in the United Kingdom, Kudzayi came to the attention of the ruling establishment in Harare through pro-regime articles he penned for NewZimbabwe.com as the anonymous online character Amai Jukwa which were also reproduced by the state media.
Ahead of the 2013 elections, he anonymously produced and released online a series of pro-Zanu PF adverts which resulted in contact from the ruling party’s headquarters.
After that, he decamped to Harare where he worked with the Zanu PF information department during the election campaign.
“A few weeks later I received a phone call from Rugare Gumbo expressing a keen interest in my work; I subsequently met him and was deployed to work with Team Zanu PF,” Kudzayi explained in a statement last year.
“In June 2013 I returned to Zimbabwe and was introduced to Professor Jonathan Moyo who was heading the Team Zanu PF media team. I was tasked with producing Zanu PF’s radio and television campaign material.”
After the elections he was appointed editor of the Sunday Mail which then led to a curious odyssey in which he would be arrested for allegedly plotting to oust Mugabe.
Perhaps rather too eager to please, Kudzayi – who is said to be an IT expert – started working with the intelligence services to unmask the Facebook character Baba Jukwa which had tormented Zanu PF and its leadership with damaging revelations, attracting more than 400,000 followers on the social networking site.
The tables were however turned on Kudzayi after police came knocking at his father’s door in the early hours of January 19, 2014. He would later be arrested and charged with attempting to commit “insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism”.
Fighting for his freedom … Edmund Kudzayi (right) after his release from remand prison
Police claimed Kudzayi was, in fact, behind the Baba Jukwa Facebook page along with his brother who was also arrested.
The arrest came after Mugabe sensationally accused Jonathan Moyo of being a “weevil” and “counter revolutionary” for appointing “unpatriotic” editors at Zimpapers.
Kudzayi then spent about a year on remand as police detectives pretended to be shuttling between Harare and the United States supposedly to gather proof from Google and Facebook before the prosecution eventually collapsed.
In a statement for his bail application, Kudzayi said he had been victimised by ruling party politicians worried he was about to expose them.
He said he had been working with the Ministry of Defence and the police to expose Baba Jukwa and those behind the character.
“These allegations are not only laughable, but a clear abuse of the criminal justice system by those in the corridors of power who are afraid that I can use my technological expertise to expose those who actually supplied the real Baba Jukwa with blow-by-blow details of sensitive meetings within Zanu PF and the Zimbabwean Government and also the people behind it,” Kudzayi said then.
“This is clearly a trial and error by the State in seeking to resolve the Baba Jukwa mystery. The State is just stabbing in the dark hoping along the way as they arrest innocent people like (me) and victimising the same, they would get the real Baba Jukwa. This is a clear lie. I am not Baba Jukwa at all.”