UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
ZIMBABWE: Military detain editor over coup report
JOHANNESBURG, 13 January (IRIN) - The editor of a privately owned weekly newspaper which carried a report of an alleged coup plot in Zimbabwe has been detained and held incommunicado by the military authorities.
Iden Wetherell, deputy editor of a sister publication, 'The Zimbabwe Independent' told IRIN on Tuesday that Mark Chavunduka, editor of 'The Standard', had been held by military police on Monday and was being detained in contravention of the law and the country's constitution. The arrest followed a report on Sunday in which 'The Standard' said that 23 members of the Zimbabwe National Army had allegedly been detained last month for plotting to overthrow the government of President Robert Mugabe.
In a national television broadcast, Zimbabwe's Defence Minister Moven Mahachi condemned the report as untrue and said action would be taken against the newspaper: "The independent media has a well calculated programme to destroy this country, to destroy this government to destroy [the ruling party] ZANU-PF. You are working for the third force," he said.
In its report, the newspaper, quoting "highly placed sources in the military" said the 23 were being held at the Chikurubi maximum security prison in the capital Harare.
"Mugabe's mismanagement of the economy, and Zimbabwe's involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been cited as reasons for their intended action," the newspaper said.
Those held include seven commissioned officers, among them a colonel. "Although these events have been kept a closely guarded secret for security reasons, 'The Standard' understands that news of the alleged coup plot first leaked on 13 December, but because of bureaucracy within the defence force, nothing was done to discipline the officers until 17 December when they were suddenly rounded up and whisked off to Chikurubi," the newspaper said.
It added that "big guns" behind the alleged plot within the army, as well as a cabinet minister and a legislator, had not been arrested because of potential trouble such action could spark. "The same sources revealed that the majority of local soldiers are unhappy about risking their lives in the DRC war for the sole purpose of preserving the regime of President Laurent Kabila," it said.
Mahachi said "appropriate" action would be taken against the newspaper. Earlier, the defence ministry said people or publications printing such allegations were "enemies of the state".
Wetherell described Mahachi's reaction as "very menacing, crude remarks". He said a court injunction for the editor's release had been filed. "Mark is held in violation of the law," Wetherell said. He called the action part of the "Congo effect" in Zimbabwe "which is infecting our national life".
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 17:42:50 +0200 (SAST) From: IRIN - Southern Africa <email@example.com> Subject: ZIMBABWE: Military detain editor over coup report 1999.1.13
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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