Journalists' union suspends board member

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The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) has suspended Grail Kupakuwana, one of its board members, to facilitate investigations into allegations he played a role in the arrest of a fellow journalist from Masvingo.

Kupakuwana, allegedly at the behest of a senior Zanu PF politician in Masvingo, attempted to trap Golden Maunganidze to reveal sources of a story which was published in the Masvingo Mirror which allegedly exposed Zanu PF politicians of stealing President Robert Mugabe’s sugar.

The story detailed how tonnes of sugar meant for use during Mugabe’s 86th birthday celebrations had been allegedly stolen.

Although the story mentioned no names, Tourism minister Walter Mzembi dispatched Kupakuwana and Josiah Dimbo, another freelance journalist, to dig out the identities of the people that had given the story to the Masvingo newspaper.

The senior ZUJ member is alleged to have obliged and travelled to Masvingo where he sent several text messages to Maunganidze pretending to be interested in doing the same story.

It is alleged that Kupakuwana forwarded to the minister the text message responses he got from the Masvingo Mirror journalist.

Mzembi immediately filed criminal defamation charges against Maunganidze.

The charges were this week thrown out by the courts for lack of evidence.

Kupakuwana, however, denies any wrongdoing saying the alegations were a “smear campaign” meant to “destroy me professionally”.

He said he only travelled to Masvingo to do some “public relations consultancy” for Mzembi.

The “consultancy work”, he said, involved doing a survey in Mucheke Stadium during Independence Day celebrations to gauge Mzembi’s popularity ratings in Masvingo.

He declined to reveal how much the minister paid him for the consultancy.

ZUJ secretary general, Foster Dongozi, yesterday told NewsDay, that the union had resolved to suspend Kupakuwana pending investigations into his conduct.

Dongozi blasted politicians and public office bearers who took advantage of poor journalists, enticing them to engage in unethical and shameful practices.

Dongozi said: “Following complaints from comrades in Masvingo that a senior official in the union had engaged in unethical and unprofessional conduct the ZUJ national executive consulted and debated the issue and resolved to suspend comrade Grail Kupakuwana pending investigations.

“The union would like to take this opportunity to condemn politicians and public officials who take advantage of problems faced by journalists in this country.”

Dongozi said poor remuneration and lack of job opportunities in the media in Zimbabwe were largely caused by the failure by the unity government to register and licence media houses that wish to start new publications.

“This has the potential to expose journalists to improper conduct,” Dongozi said.

He said the union was also worried about the increase in cases of defamation against journalists being brought against journalists by politicians and public officials.

“We are warning the inclusive government that an injury to one is an injury to all,” he said.