HARARE – The editor of the Daily News, Stanley Gama — also Group Editor of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) — was yesterday detained by police together with his deputy, Chris Goko, at the behest of maverick businessman and Zimpapers board member Munyaradzi Kereke over a story alleging that his family’s disappearance was a hoax.
The arrests, coming exactly nine days after the embattled businessman had threatened to nail the two in a barrage of aggressive phone calls and text messages, also came despite the paper running his viewpoint in full, including claims that police were even going to publish photos of his missing wife, and child on October 1.
After yesterday’s four-hour ordeal at the Harare Central Police station – meticulously handled by top Harare lawyer Alec Muchadehama – Gama and Goko were released after signing warned, and cautioned statements, in which they denied Kereke’s criminal defamation charges.
The duo and their paper’s alleged crime, was to run the riveting story which was of huge public interest, and which alleged that Kereke’s missing family report was a ruse – seemingly wheeled out to galvanise his claims that his life was in danger from a multiplicity of forces, including Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono and unnamed security agents.
The story was lifted from the New Zimbabwe website, a normal journalistic practice, including at Zimpapers where Kereke is a board member. However, the 40 year-old businessman now claims that he was injured by the September 29 article.
According to Kereke, the story was not only based on falsehoods, but was particularly bad in that it could jeopardise “a massive manhunt” for his wife Joseline, and his four year-old daughter Tashinga, that was allegedly under way.
A desperate and frantic search in far-flung places like South Africa, and the United Kingdom was still on, Kereke told this paper two weekends ago.
Further, he alleged, the article was particularly irksome in that the “abduction” was deemed a false call even before Augustine Chihuri’s men were still to interrogate him and the purported gardener who witnessed the family leave after an alleged domestic altercation.
In that vein, the Daily News was allegedly guilty of harassing him – by publishing this and other stories – especially at this distressful time, hence the need for police protection.
In a startling revelation then, the ex-Central Bank senior staffer not only said his tormentors were responsible for taking his family hostage, but also responsible for planting false stories about him – including the alleged rape of a minor, which has put him on legal tenterhooks.
In reporting these serious and damaging social allegations – pursued by gritty Harare lawyer Charles Warara – the Daily News has been walking a minefield of gigantic proportions in the public interest, including a ridiculously high $25 million lawsuit.
Ever since Kereke was ejected from the RBZ early this year, he has been on a sensational offensive against Gono, the media and others he thinks are against his interests.
The public media where he is a board member have enthusiastically reported on many of these adventures.
Among many claims, Kereke has published salacious allegations and letters claiming that his ex-Central Bank boss had looted millions of dollars in public funds.
Gama said last night that the arrest was particularly worrisome as it came just days after another group of Daily News staffers were harangued by alleged war veterans “for merely attempting to do their work”.
“However, let me make it abundantly clear once again, we will continue to tell it like it is and discharge our duties without fear or favour, even in the face of this adversity,” he said.
A company spokesperson added: “We have taken note of the increasing use of vexatious lawsuits and other malicious methods against us by some low life’s in our country – obviously meant to stop us from doing our work. While we have nothing personal against Mr Kereke, our journalists will not be intimidated from reporting on any grave allegations he may be facing. We owe it to our country and its future to do so.” – Bridget Mananavire