PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and Vice-President Joice Mujuru have been sucked into the Mediagate saga which involves a controversial takeover of private newspapers by the Central Intelligence Orga
Intelligence sources said Mugabe had apparently overruled Mujuru on the matter after she tried to remove the CIO from the Zimbabwe Mirror Group of Newspapers. Court documents show that Mujuru was involved in the matter as letters were copied to her.
The CIO had a leveraged buy-out using public funds at the Mirror titles, the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Mirror, from which CEO and editor-in-chief Ibbo Mandaza has been suspended. Mandaza is fighting his suspension and takeover of the papers in court.
The CIO has also reportedly taken over the Financial Gazette through an ownership front structure. Central bank governor Gideon Gono was key in the deal as “financial advisor”.
It has also been learnt the CIO has influence in state media newsrooms, production houses which generate news and commercials, a prominent news agency and the Media & Information Commission.
Reports also indicate the CIO was behind the closure of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe titles – the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday – the Tribune and Weekly Times. The state security agency is currently trying to buy into another private weekly.
Sources said Mugabe had seemingly overruled Mujuru in her attempt to make the CIO withdraw from the Mirror papers. It is said Mandaza approached Mujuru’s husband, retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru, after the Mediagate disclosures to enlist his support to drive out the CIO.
The Mirror papers played a significant role in supporting Mujuru in her bid to become vice-president in the run-up to the ruling Zanu PF congress last December. The papers were openly hostile to her rival, Zanu PF heavyweight Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Sources said Mujuru approached State Security minister Didymus Mutasa on the issue after Mandaza had spoken to her husband in an effort to resolve the Mirror ownership problems spawned by Mediagate.
It is said Mutasa agreed with Mujuru that the CIO had no business in the media. Mutasa told Mirror managers over lunch on August 22 that the CIO would withdraw because a decision had been made on August 19.
However, Mutasa made a dramatic U-turn on September 19 at a meeting with Mandaza, CIO director-general Happyton Bonyongwe and disputed Mirror chair Jonathan Kadzura. Instead of being informed when the CIO was leaving, Mandaza was told to quit.
It was at this point that Mugabe was thought to have intervened because Mutasa suggested at the meeting that a higher authority had overruled him. The following day Mandaza informed Mutasa he was prepared to leave on December 31 if paid off.
Mandaza then put his exit proposal in writing on September 21. But the CIO rejected it on September 29, a day before the date they had set for Mandaza’s departure.
Prior to that, Mandaza had on September 14 written to Kadzura informing him Mutasa had confirmed on August 22 the CIO was moving out. Court documents show the letter was copied to Mujuru, which confirms her involvement in the saga.
In a move seen as Machiavellian, sources say Mugabe on September 28 raised the Mediagate issue in the Zanu PF politburo where he reportedly asked Mutasa why they were taking over Mandaza’s papers. Insiders thought that Mugabe was only trying to dissociate himself from the move.