Nyikayaramba, the commander of the 3rd infrantry battallion in Manicaland province allegedly threatened to beat up two journalists from The Mail after they asked him respond to a comment in parliament by Masvingo Central legislator Tongai Matutu that the Brigadier General is an ‘idiot’ for his comments he made on the leader of the mainstream Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) Morgan Tsvangirai whom he labelled as a national security threat because he supports Zanu (PF).
Matutu withdrew his statement in Parliament when Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa called for the withdrawal of the statement arguing that it was ‘unparliamentary’ adding that Nyikayaramba was not a Member of Parliament and could not defend himself from the allegations.
The two journalists, employed by the recently launched The Mail newspaper, whose names are being withheld for their security, had been assigned by the paper’s editors to interview Nyikayaramba on a wide range of issues, including calls for reforms in the security sector.
“Our two staffers (names supplied) were threatened by Douglas Nyikayaramba on Friday last week. They called to meet with the Brigadier General; they met him in his car to have an interview. But he became angry when asked what was his comment on Matutu’s comment in parliament that he was an idiot,” a senior editor at The Mail told Radio VOP.
“He then threatened our journalists with unspecified action resulting in our staffers running away from the interview. We are shocked about his behaviour because he had agreed to the interview in the first place.”
The paper, though claiming to be independent of Zanu (PF), is seen by many as having strong links with the former ruling party’s establishments, with claims that some of its major shareholders are Zanu (PF) heavyweights of associates of the party.
Names such as Van Hoog Straten, Mines Minister, Obert Mpofu, Zanu (PF) strongman Emmerson Mnangagwa, among others, are linked to the newspaper although the publishers are yet to disclose the “direct” owners of the publication.
According to one of the two journalists, all went well throughout the interview which centred on mostly, on Nyikayaramba’s sentiments regarding the armed forces perceived support of President Robert Mugabe.
“We were given an assignment to interview Nyikayaramba by the editors,” said one of the reporters.
“All was well until we received a phone call from one of our editors who asked us to ask Nyikayaramba to respond to claims, accusations, and description by one parliamentarian that he was an idiot. That is when all hell broke loose,” the journalist added.
Radio VOP is told Nyikayaramba went ballistic, speaking from the top of his voice and threatening to shoot the bemused journalists.
“When we realised that he was very angry and threatening to shoot us, we opened the doors…and took to our heels,” the journalist added.
In its Monday edition this week, the paper downplayed the story, preferring to run it as part of its gossip column, Corridors of Power.
Reads part of the column: “Two reporters from The Mail ran for dear life on Friday after an army commander threatened to manhandle them for asking tough questions.
The reporters had called the senior officer seeking verification of a tip-off they had received that he had been involved in an accident as he had rushed to hospital after a fight with his wife.”
Nyikayaramba has been at the centre of political discussion in the past month for labelling Tsvangirai a national ‘security threat’.
Nyikayaramba’s political statements were given as one of the reasons why Mbizo MP, Settlement Chikwinya moved a motion in parliament this month for security chiefs to re-affirm their allegiance to the Constitution of Zimbabwe and for the military chiefs to desist from making political statements.
Several security chiefs have made public statements in the past years saying that they will not support a democratically elected leader in Zimbabwe who does not have war of liberation credentials.