SOUTH African-based Zimbabwean journalist Mkhululi Chimoio, whom the state is keen to interview on suspicion he is one of the persons linked to shadowy online figure Baba Jukwa after being implicated by an alleged former girlfriend Precious Makuvha, has admitted knowing Makuvha but refused to divulge the nature of their relationship.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba this week revealed the police wanted to interview Chimoio and another South African-based Zimbabwean Zakes Moyo in connection with the administration of the Baba Jukwa Facebook page.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent through his lawyer Obert Gutu, Chimoio denied being Baba Jukwa or one of the administrators of the popular page which has about 410 000 “likes”.
Makuvha, who claimed to have had direct communication with Chimoio on the Baba Jukwa page, declared in an interview with Sunday Mail editor Edmund Kudzayi that Chimoio, another journalist, Mxolisi Ncube, and Roleen Gandiwa were administrators of the page.
Ncube denies the allegations and last week handed himself over to Zimbabwe’s embassy in South Africa where he was interviewed by police and released. Chimoio has however not handed himself in.
The interview done by Kudzayi, whom the state believes is Baba Jukwa, was part of his investigations with Makuvha.
Kudzayi, who is currently on bail on allegations of attempting to subvert a constitutionally elected government, was contracted by the Ministry of Defence to hack into Baba Jukwa’s email account in August last year so as to establish who the anonymous blogger is.
He was also trying to establish who his informants or collaborators are.
“Mkhululi admits that he knows one Precious Makuvha. However, it is not pertinent for the purpose of your enquiry for us to disclose the nature of their relationship,” said Gutu, on behalf of Chimoio.
Gutu also said his client did not know Kudzayi in his personal capacity saying “he just knows Kudzayi as a person who was employed as the Editor of the Sunday Mail newspaper”.
He said Chimoio does not know how he became implicated in the Baba Jukwa saga.
Gutu said his client was suing NewZimbabwe.com and Zimpapers, which published stories which stated that Chimoio was Baba Jukwa as his reputation was damaged by the stories.
his client was merely following Baba Jukwa on Facebook and not involved in the administration of the page, he maintained.
“As regards Mkhululi Chimoio, we are instructed that in or around April 13, 2013, he had been following the fast rising Facebook page titled Baba Jukwa. Although Mkhululi Chimoio hardly communicated with the so-called Baba Jukwa, as a practising investigative journalist he kept a close eye on Baba Jukwa’s Facebook updates and he followed on Baba Jukwa’s leads from some of which he developed and wrote stories,” wrote Gutu to NewZimbabwe.com, in a letter of demand also availed to the Zimbabwe Independent.
“Mkhululi Chimoio maintains that the stories that were published by your online publication, claiming to have unmasked him as Baba Jukwa, also caused him untold harm and prejudice in both his professional and private lives. For Mkhululi Chimoio, it was particularly hurtful and damaging that his innocent two-year old daughter was also unwittingly dragged into this fiasco by having her photographs splashed on social media networks.”
Chimoio demanded a retraction, an apology and damages to the tune of US$25 million. Ncube is also demanding US$25 million in damages from NewZimbabwe.com.
Gutu said his client was “willing and able to co-operate with the relevant law enforcement agencies, and as such, he is prepared to avail himself for an interview as long as appropriate and suitable arrangements are put in place”.
He added Chimoio was also willing to testify in court including in the defamation case against Zimpapers.
“Indeed, summons have since been issued against the editors of the Sunday Mail and Herald newspapers as well as against their publisher, Zimpapers (1980) (Pvt) Ltd. The summons were issued out of the High Court in Harare; and as and when Mkhululi is required to testify in court, suitable arrangements will be put in place to ensure that his personal safety is guaranteed,” said Gutu.
“We reiterate that Mkhululi has not committed any criminal offence and as such, there is no reasonable and/or justifiable excuse to cause his arrest.”
In her interview with Kudzayi, Makuvha, who claims to have been an MDC-T member, said she in-boxed Baba Jukwa after liking one of his posts resulting in him asking for her telephone number. He then phoned and later met up with her several times in South Africa resulting in their relationship “blossoming”.
Makuvha claimed that Chimoio, Ncube and Gandiwa used to communicate about Baba Jukwa issues directly.
She also claimed they communicated with former MDC-T treasurer Roy Bennett and planned to cause insurgency.
Makuvha has reportedly been interviewed by the police and the military intelligence.
She could not be reached for comment as her mobile phone went unanswered.