A branch of military intelligence has seized control of the Baba Jukwa investigation from the police in the wake of new evidence linking the syndicate to vigilantes believed to have attacked the Zimbabwean consulate in South Africa last year. The intervention follows repeated attempts emanating from computers in South Africa and The Netherlands to access information held by a technical unit at Harare Central Police Station.
The files are believed to hold evidence which implicates a number of individuals who collaborated with the Baba Jukwa syndicate.
The attempts to access the information are believed to have been motivated by anxiety over exactly how much the authorities know about the Baba Jukwa syndicate.
On Friday evening, a military officer working on the case said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had retrieved material previously held by the police and was now the point agency in directing investigations.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the officer said the ministry had a renewed interest in the case following revelations that a group calling itself the Gunda Nleya Brigade (GNB) was involved in an attack on the Zimbabwean consulate in South Africa.
The group of self-proclaimed renegade security forces has been linked to former Bulawayo policeman Mxolisi Ncube, who has been revealed as one of the administrators behind the Baba Jukwa Facebook page.
The Sunday Mail understands the consulate captured closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of the alleged attack. Efforts to view the video last week were unsuccessful.
The military is believed to have been involved in investigations into Baba Jukwa as early as May last year, but had not taken any action as the profiles of the domestic collaborators were not considered national security threats.
It remains unclear how information reportedly held by the military was then posted online a few weeks ago, implicating Ncube and Mkhululi Chimoio as the administrators of the Baba Jukwa page.
The authorities have remained tight-lipped over the case with none of the security services coming out to deny or confirm involvement in the hacking of private emails. Efforts to get a comment from national police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba last week were fruitless as she asked this newspaper to call her back later in the day.
Her number then went unanswered. Last week The Sunday Mail reported that a number of individuals in Harare and Masvingo have been short-listed for offences ranging from possession and distribution of pornography to contravention of the Official Secrets Act.
The growth of terrorism in Africa, with multiple bombings in Kenya as well as abductions and killings in Nigeria by Boko Haram, has made the authorities more cautious about self-proclaimed separatist groups like Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF) and vigilantes like the GNB.
The GNB claims to have been founded by 100 members of the security services. Like the Baba Jukwa pair, the group runs a Facebook page where it has invariably published subversive material.
In a post titled “GNB Call for Action”, the group last year told its followers to converge on a property in Harare where functionaries who allegedly “rigged the voters’ roll” operated from.
The location of the property had been provided by Baba Jukwa.
Former MLF leader Paul Siwela fled the country late last year after being charged with treason.
The pressure group advocated a separate Matabeleland state.
The military is believed to be eager to make an example of individuals associated with GNB.
Analysts believe the intelligence services are behind the series of leaks and are looking to demonstrate their increased capabilities in monitoring online communication.
The authorities can lawfully intercept communication under the Interception of Communications Act.
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