South African-based Zimbabwean journalists Mxolisi Ncube and Mkhulului Chimoio yesterday denied media reports that they were the brains behind Zimbabwean Facebook whistleblower, Baba Jukwa, long believed to be a Zanu PF mole.
In a statement the two say they have instituted legal action against The Sunday Mail through their lawyer Obert Gutu of Gutu and Chikowero Attorneys-at-Law.
In an earlier interview with NewsDay, Ncube had threatened to sue The Sunday Mail and online publication NewZimbabwe.com for publishing stories linking them to the Baba Jukwa Facebook account.
The stories were based on reports that unknown hackers had penetrated the two journalists’ email communications and traced their real identities including pictures. The alleged hackers also exposed some of the journalists’ private email messages with Wilf Mbanga, editor of The Zimbabwean newspaper.
“I have nothing to do with Baba Jukwa and as I said, I can give you proof to that,” Ncube said, adding that the allegations could be part of a plot by State security agents to nail him.
A former public relations officer with the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Ncube said: “I think they have been out to get us because we used to interview him (Baba Jukwa), so they thought we knew him, but we wish we did. On two occasions my emails and Facebook accounts were hacked.
But let me tell you this now, nothing ever links me to that Jukwa character, though my Yahoo account suddenly gets the Baba Jukwa name when you send stuff to it.”
Baba Jukwa shot to fame in the run-up to the 2013 elections when he made several sensational exposes about Zanu PF leaders – most of which came to pass – among them his prediction on the mysterious death of former Mines minister Edward Chindori-Chininga in a road accident.
At its peak, it had over 500 000 followers on Facebook and generated a lot of interest across the political divide. The exposes were centred on corruption, assassination plots and plans to rig the polls.
Just before the polls, it predicted that Zanu PF would triumph over Morgan Tsdvangirai’s MDC-T.
Ncube added: “I did work for the State as a PR (public relations) sergeant working in Bulawayo. I never had access to State information and if there is any CIO who knows me and can attest to that, let them come out and say it. I was a reporter with the in-house (police) Outpost magazine.”
He said he fled political persecution in 2008 after State security agents trailed him for publishing sensitive political stories.
“I did a story about an alleged assassination attempt on (Zapu leader) Dumiso Dabengwa, when he had moved to join [Mavambo/Kusile Dawn party] leader Simba Makoni. That coupled with [Justice minister] Emmerson Mnangagwa’s allegation that Zanu PF had lost the elections in March 2008 because of The Zimbabwean, made me one of their key targets.
Again, they should have based their story on my past in the ZRP. Some senior officers called telling me to leave Zimbabwe immediately because three people were on their way to get me. I had been abducted and released without harm previously,” he said.
Ncube’s alleged accomplice Chimoio could not be reached for comment, but posted a cryptic message on his Facebook page which also seems to deny any link to Baba Jukwa.
He wrote: “It’s not surprising that some desperate fools can download my pics and use them in their funny YouTube and other social network wars. We will meet in a court of law, will teach you a lesson not to dare scandalise, character assassinate or drag my name into your own squabbles.
This needs straight legal action for defamation of character and publishing false info about me.”
Meanwhile, the State media said the journalists could be extradited and charged for breaching the country’s security laws.