Police stormed Zimbabwe’s Daily News on Tuesday looking for documents to prove that sacked former president Joice Mujuru is a shareholder of the company which owns the opposition-supporting newspaper.
First Lady Grace Mugabe, 49, claimed last year that Mujuru, 59, owned 10 percent in the newspaper during her “Meet the People” tour of the provinces: “Don’t be surprised to see negative stories of me every day. She (Mujuru) bought 10 percent of Daily News.”
The first lady also accused Mujuru of plotting to assassinate her husband, President Robert Mugabe.
In the week before Christmas, a magistrate granted an order to the police to search the Daily News and seize any documents connected with Associated Newspapers, ANZ, which owns the Daily News.
The police could have found the information it needed at the Registrar of Companies or the state’s Media Commission which holds information of all companies and individuals involved in any media activities in Zimbabwe.
The Daily News said its lawyers were considering challenging the validity of the court order because “no alleged crime nor the identity of any accused person have been identified, which essentially made it (the court order) irregular and incapable of being executed”.
After the police search, ANZ group editor, Stanley Gama, said: “It is good to see that Mrs Mugabe continues to confirm very openly the fact that she, her husband and her family are avid readers of our paper, which is understandable given that hundreds of thousands of other Zimbabweans have long decided that our winning, credible journalism is the best on the market.
“While she is plainly wrong about Mrs Mujuru having shares in the Daily News, I must also, nevertheless, thank the first lady for continuing to market our inimitable paper with such admirable zeal, particularly today where she did this without inciting violence against our staff.”
Gama said the newspaper had taken “incessant threats and pressure from Zanu-PF” since it returned to the streets and faced a string of “vexatious” law suits which so far had not made it to the courts.
He also said the newspaper was banned from circulating in certain parts of the country and reporters were regularly barred from covering some state functions.
Meanwhile Zanu-PF-controlled state media, such as the Harare daily, The Herald, reported earlier this week that police investigations into other companies in which Mujuru is alleged to hold shares were continuing.
Mujuru has denied she plotted against Mugabe at any time and has been replaced as vice-president by justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
She held a position in Mugabe’s cabinets since 1980 independence.
Late last year Grace Mugabe was awarded a PhD in social sciences by her husband who is chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe and went on to become a member of the ruling party’s politburo at its congress last month.
After the congress, Mugabe sacked 16 ministers and deputies from his cabinet, most of whom were seen as Mujuru loyalists.
Analysts in Harare speculate he may sack more when he returns from his annual holiday in Asia on January 15.
If Zanu-PF expels the sacked cabinet ministers they will also lose their parliamentary seats, which would spark a mini general election. – Daily News Foreign Service