Zimbabwe: Blogger dishing dirt on Robert Mugabe

Internet poster Baba Jukwa has revealed that Robert Mugabe's health is likely to hinder his election chances. Picture: Getty
Internet poster Baba Jukwa has revealed that Robert Mugabe's health is likely to hinder his election chances. Picture: Getty
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They call him BJ, code for the wildly-popular anonymous internet poster who is dishing the dirt on the inner workings of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe’s party.

In a country where the press is largely fettered and where a chance gibe about Mr Mugabe can get you thrown into jail for a year, this faceless Facebook character gleefully spills what look very much like state secrets several times a day – and the security services have been powerless to stop him.

BJ or Baba Jukwa, which means “Daddy Ancestral Spirit” in the Shona language, has access to information only top officials of Zanu-PF could be privy to.

He blogs about meetings of Mugabe’s Soviet-style politburo, has published a list of the drugs the 89-year-old dictator is allegedly taking and lays bare the ways he says “the evil old people of my party” are planning to rig the 31 July polls.

After decades of propaganda Zimbabweans just can’t get enough of him.

Says Piers Pigou of the International Crisis Group: “People are checking it numerous times a day. It’s an unprecedented insight into some of the mechanisms of Zanu-PF.”

Sharing the mobile phone numbers of Central Intelligence Organisation agents, police chiefs and even Mr Mugabe’s State House receptionist, Baba Jukwa foretold the recent death of cabinet minister Edward Chindori-Chininga in a car 

Last week he said he had been part of a delegation sent to the airport to welcome Mr Mugabe home after his sudden trip to Singapore – and he believed the president was too ill to hit the campaign trail. “I will be surprised if he even attempts to address a few rallies because honestly the old man is in serious pain,” he wrote.

Sure enough, the party announced last Thursday that Mr Mugabe would only address ten rallies in the run-up to the polls – fewer than in previous elections.

In contrast his main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change will address 60. Zanu-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said Mr Mugabe’s schedule had been pared down because of “transport and logistics.”

The opposition can’t believe its luck. Baba Jukwa was publicly thanked last Sunday at an MDC rally by Nelson Chamisa, who is a minister in a power-sharing government set up after the last violent polls in 2008. BJ says he’s part of Zanu-PF’s vapanduki (rebel) clique – officials and members of the security forces who are disgusted with violence and party corruption.

“He’s talking about a free Zimbabwe, an open society, he’s tired of the political shenanigans of Mugabe,” says Harare-based analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya. “He’s an agent of hope, he has a vision that everyone – or those who seek change – has.”

Analysts believe there may be more than one writer behind the page. The names of Reserve Bank chief Gideon Gono and defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa are among several that have been floated around – though both appear unlikely candidates.

Whoever he is, Baba Jukwa is treading a dangerous path. Unconfirmed reports say there’s a $300,000 bounty on his head: he claims intelligence operatives have launched “Operation Close Shave” in a bid to flush him out.

Readers are worried. “BJ pls play it safe mdara [old man] or whatever coz u are so precious to the family of Zimbabwe,” posted one this week.

Fearful of being hunted down, some locals say it is too dangerous to “Like” his page.

“It’s clearly created a significant amount of distress within Zanu-PF headquarters,” said Mr Pigou. “If Zanu-PF had been able to shut this down it would have done so.”