Has Baba Jukwa, Zimbabwe’s infamous anonymous whistleblower, really been caught?

The above Facebook post, by Zimbabwean whistleblower "Baba Jukwa," could be the last we see from the anonymous Facebook account that has infuriated Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front party.

This weekend, Edmund Kudakwashe Kudzayi, an editor at the Sunday Mail state newspaper, appeared in court accused of running the account. Together with his brother, Phillip Tawanda, and other suspects reportedly still at large, Kudzayi has been charged with a multitude of crimes, including "subverting a constitutional government or alternatively attempting to commit an act of insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism," according to the Zimbabwean Standard.

Kudzayi's real role in the Baba Jukwa affair is unclear. But the potential reveal of Baba Jukwa is dominating the Zimbabwean news media – and it's not hard to see why.

(Facebook / Baba Jukwe)
(Facebook / Baba Jukwe)

The Facebook account using the name "Baba Jukwa" (father of Jukwa) first appeared in the early months of 2013. It was completely anonymous, using only a cartoon of an old man as its avatar, but it claimed to be run by a disillusioned Zanu-PF member who had taken to Facebook to reveal the group's secrets. Many doubted that back story, and there were theories that Baba Jukwa was not one person but a collective, or that the account's creator(s) were actually based abroad. No one seemed to know for sure.

Even if Baba Jukwa's purported back story wasn't true, the account did seem to hold some inside knowledge, revealing a number of secrets Zanu-PF most likely did not want getting out. Most notably, it alleged that there was an assassination plot against Zanu-PF's Edward Chindori-Chininga, and soon afterward the politician died in a suspicious car crash. The account soon gathered hundreds of thousands of "likes" on Facebook (it currently has almost half a million), and the Zanu-PF establishment seemed worried: In the run-up to 2013's elections, Mugabe reportedly offered a "$300,000 reward" to whomever could reveal Baba Jukwa's real identity.

The idea of a mole inside Zanu-PF working to oust the notorious Mugabe (a man who has gone from revolutionary hero to a notoriously cranky, disastrous dictator in his three-decade-plus reign) is clearly a captivating story. It was picked up by a variety of international outlets, including the BBC and the Economist.

But there was also a darker side to some of Baba Jukwa's messages – in particular, a message last year appeared to threaten Minister of Youth Development Saviour Kasukuwere's children with abduction, though it was swiftly deleted and an apology rendered. "I am not a violent person, but a concerned father in need of a better society," Baba Jukwa explained to me in interview last year, adding that Kasukuwere "has to pay for his sins as he has killed, tortured, victimized and raped."

Is this really the end of Babe Jukwa? Despite the charges against Kudzayi, there are plenty of reasons to be suspicious. For one thing, Kudzayi has admitted to being behind the "Amai Jukwa" account, an unabashedly pro-Mugabe account that was set up after Baba Jukwa appeared last year. Why would he control both accounts? Meanwhile, in the Zimbabwean press, some suspect that Kudzayi is being targeted only because of his links to a Zanu-PF faction led by Information Minister Jonathan Moyo.

"This entire ordeal is essentially Mugabe's succession issue playing out in full public view," said Jeffrey Smith, an advocacy officer with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. "It's one of the unfortunate side effects of Mugabe refusing to deal with the issue of party leadership." Smith added that he felt the scandal was overshadowing Zimbabwe's real problems — particularly its worsening economy.

Kudzayi was refused bail Monday and has been remanded until July 7. He has perhaps a vital piece of evidence up his sleeve, however: The Babe Jukwa Facebook post at the start of this story was posted online Sunday, while Kudzayi was sitting in jail. How could he have posted it?

Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
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