Picture: ERIC MILLER
Picture: ERIC MILLER

HARARE — Baba Jukwa’s name is whispered in buses, bars and on street corners by Zimbabweans eager for the inside scoop on President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party. One avid follower even climbs a tree in a rural village, awaiting a signal to call a friend for the latest tidbits from the mysterious yet stupendously popular blogger.

Baba Jukwa, or "Jukwa’s father" in Shona, is a Zanu (PF) party insider who says on his popular Facebook page that he is disheartened by the "corrupt and evil machinations" of President Robert Mugabe’s fractious party.

From its launch in March the Baba Jukwa page now has a larger following than both the president and prime minister, with at least 200,000 followers.

The blog contains what it claims are exposés by well-connected insiders of Mr Mugabe’s health secrets, murder, assassination and corruption plots, and intended intimidation and vote-rigging ahead of upcoming elections scheduled for the end of July.

Zimbabweans who follow Baba Jukwa say they now have unfettered access to information they have always wanted but never dared seek for fear of being arrested. Under the nation’s sweeping security laws, it is an offence to undermine the authority of the president and national security operatives.

Baba Jukwa claims on the page that there is a bounty on his head, though it is believed the page has several authors because the writing style of the posts changes from day to day.

After state-run media said the president made a trip to Singapore for an eye check-up, the Baba Jukwa page stated: "When we welcomed him at the airport yesterday early in the morning our old man, ladies and gentlemen, looked weaned and very weak. It was clear that the chemotherapy process he went through in Far East Asia was still having effect on him."

It said Mugabe was suffering from a severe recurrence of prostate cancer.

Using the catchphrase "tapanduka zvamuchose", a Shona term meaning he has "gone rogue", Baba Jukwa gives details of secret venues and times of undercover meetings.

Zanu (PF) insiders have reported they are afraid to leave important meetings to go to the bathroom in case they are suspected of firing off smartphone texts to Baba Jukwa. The Facebook page has reported getting tip-offs from the midst of meetings of Mr Mugabe’s politburo, the party’s highest policy-making body, and other confidential gatherings.

Zimbabwe has an estimated 12-million mobile subscribers and 60% are estimated to have direct access to the internet through their phones, according to commercial company reports from the three main mobile networks.

McDonald Lewanika, director of Crisis Coalition, an alliance of democracy and human rights groups, says the Facebook site has provided ordinary Zimbabweans with a platform to access information on secretive state security operations. He says Baba Jukwa remains anonymous because of the danger associated with what he is doing.

"It is a bad sign for the country that there’s no free flow of information," Mr Lewanika says.

The faceless Baba Jukwa vows to end Mr Mugabe’s rule by exposing the alleged involvement of his top officials, secret agents, police and military in the violence that led to disputed elections in 2008 and corruption and internal plotting ever since.

Baba Jukwa says Mr Mugabe will not be able to withstand a gruelling election campaign.

Zanu (PF) spokesman Rugare Gumbo says his party does not know the identity of Baba Jukwa and other possible contributors.

The posts are factually incorrect, he says. However, some have proven to be correct as events unfold. The distribution of private and secret telephone numbers of security agents and forecasts of political developments have been corroborated in later public statements by Zanu (PF).

"Whoever he is, he fabricates lies and is not doing any good to the morality of our society," Mr Gumbo says.

Bounty

Baba Jukwa’s posts claim Zanu (PF) is incensed by the site and is making desperate efforts to establish his identity, offering a $300,000 reward for the unmasking of the author or authors. That claim could not be verified.

"They are wasting their time as I am extremely careful and working from within the country and will never go anywhere as long as these evil old people exist I will continue fighting. My blood will water freedom and democracy for Zimbabweans if I die for this cause", Baba Jukwa says in a recent Facebook posting.

"Asijiki", a Shona word for "we do not retreat", is the signoff Baba Jukwa uses on all the posts.

Baba Jukwa has been dubbed by his followers "Zimbabwe’s own Julian Assange". He describes himself in Shona as "mupupuri wezvokwadi", which means "the harbinger of truth".

A former minister from Mr Mugabe’s party was killed in a car wreck on June 19 after a post had warned several times of an assassination plot against him. The page claimed Edward Chindori-Chininga was suspected of being a Baba Jukwa contributor who leaked inside information on infighting in Mr Mugabe’s party.

"I told you there will be body bags coming this year ... The war has begun," Baba Jukwa posted on his wall.

In a post on Wednesday night, Baba Jukwa warns of further assassination plots.

"If Baba Jukwa is going to warn these people let him start with Roy Bennett and he should do it fast they want him dead even before the end of this week and most of the crew that is on the previous 1st priority list," the post says.

"Those operatives I told you of who are operating illegal in South Africa … they want him dead like yesterday. Wherever you, you must beef up your security."

Mr Bennett is a former Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) treasurer who spent 15 months in prison after a physical confrontation in parliament in 2004 with one of Mr Mugabe’s ministers

The Baba Jukwa posts have detailed the correct private phone numbers of police, intelligence chiefs and under-cover intelligence officers and urged readers to call them.

Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere publicly admitted to receiving at least 50 insulting calls a day.

He said his children and ageing mother had also received calls, which were taking a toll on his family, but "it’s a price we have to pay for our country".

Baba Jukwa has promised to revealed his identity in time. "I assure you will know me in a new Zimbabwe where our government will be transparent," he said.

Sapa-AP