Information Minister Dead

Both New Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Journalists are reporting the death of Zimbabwe’s information minister Tichaona Jokonya early Saturday morning.

Jokonya, who took over the controversial ministry from Jonathan Moyo had previously been Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the UN.

There had been longrunning rumors that he had been unwell.

According to New Zimbabwe,

Jokonya’s body was recovered from a bath tub of the Rainbow Towers Hotel, formerly Sheraton Hotel, in Harare.

He had booked a 16th floor room and when he failed to answer the door to his bodyguard, hotel staff forced open the door.

It is not known if there was any other person in the room with Jokonya who has a house in Harare and lived with his wife, Winnie Friede and children.

After taking over the information portfolio, Jokonya had, until last Wednesday, done little to reverse his ministry’s legacy of mantaining ZANU-PF’s absolute monarchy on Zimbabwe’s information outlets, and dealing harshly with independent media. On Wednesday, the formerly mild Jokonya boldly announced he was going recentralize the operational structure of ZBH, a wholly owned parastatal, and Zimbabwe’s sole radio and T.V. broadcaster. The move, which will eradicate the national broadcaster’s “small business units” was Jokonya’s first real challenge to the establishment left by Moyo.

The information ministry is central to the ZANU-PF government’s propaganda machinary, and has always been awarded to Mugabe’s closest and most adept lieutenants. Jokonya’s tenure at the helm of the ministry was clearly marked by a softening of the government’s stance on independent media practitioners. Jokonya was even rumoured to have been making benign attempts at “defrosting” relations between his ministry and the independent media establishment.

Lately, he appeared to have buckled down and had began singing along to ZANU-PF’s abuses of independent media. Addressing a press conference earlier last week, Jokonya described locally based correspondents of foreign media as “traitors” saying,

“You know what the end of a traitor is? The end of a traitor is always death. The unfortunate thing about a traitor is that you are killed by both your own people and the person whom you are serving,”

Further, even though it is yet unclear what role he played in instituting it, the repressive Interception of Communications Bill came into effect during Jokonya’s reign.

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