Journalists from Masvingo said on Wednesday they had been shocked to learn that an executive member of ZUJ (name supplied) was allegedly sent to spy on Maunganidze by Tourism Minister Walter Muzembi. Mzembi filed criminal defamation charges against Maunganidze over a story he wrote concerning the theft of hundreds of tonnes of sugar donated to President Robert Mugabe at his 86th birthday celebrations in February.
Mzembi is said to have sent the ZUJ executive member to Masvingo on an all-expenses paid spy mission to establish who Maunganidze’s sources were. While in Masvingo, the ZUJ member, who was booked at Chevron Hotel, sent Maunganidze text messages on his mobile enquiring how he would destroy Mzembi. He said he wanted sources from Mzembi’s enemies in Zanu (PF) who could give him stories.
Maunganidze allegedly advised him to seek someone from a rival faction in Zanu (PF). However, Maunganidze was shocked when police in Harare, where he had been summoned, showing him the text messages he had exhanged with the ZUJ member. The police claimed they had received the text messages from the said ZUJ member.
“I was really shocked to see the correspondence that I made with the ZUJ member at the police station. Luckily I did not mention any names,” said Maunganidze.
Maunganidze’s lawyer, Arthur Marara, of Matsikidze and Musheche law firm, said his client was questioned by chief superintendent Ngirishi from the Law and Order Section and three other police details who, allegedly acting on the orders of Mzembi, who wanted to know where the story came from.
“My client refused to divulge his sources after being questioned for about seven hours, ” said Marara.
He however questioned why the matter was being handled in Harare when it happened in Masvingo, from where Mzembi also hails from.
Mzembi is the Masvingo South legislator.
In a letter to the ZUJ national executive leadership, journalists in Masvingo, demanded an immediate expulsion of this member from the union for misconduct and unprofessionalism.
“That was a great act of misconduct and unethical behavior displayed by one person whom we think should represent and protect the interests of journalists in the country. We were so shocked that a person, whom we so entrust with that responsibility is a sellout who betray his fellow comrades, despite the dangers that may befall such comrades.
“We hereby demand an immediate suspension pending expulsion of this member while the union undertakes investigations over the issue,” read part of the latter, signed by over 15 journalists, based in the province.
This is not the first time that journalists have been used to spy for government officials for payment. A few years back, another ZUJ executive member and former political reporter of the Zimbabwe Independent, was expelled from the union after it was discovered that he was spying stories from his publication to the dreaded CIO agents.
Contacted for comment, the ZUJ executive member said: “I cannot talk about that, if you have a problem with Mzembi do not
ZUJ president Dumisani Sibanda said he was out of office and had not received a copy of the letter. “I am out of office on assignment, I have not yet recieved the letter.”