STATE security agents have warned off editors of privately-owned newspapers from repeating South African and British newspaper claims that President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, had an affair with Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono.
Aides of both Gono, who is married, and Grace Mugabe, nee Marufu, strongly reject the allegations.
Four senior Central Intelligence Organisation officials met newspaper editors separately in Harare and issued various threats on Tuesday, according to an editor who attended the meetings, but who wanted his publication to remain unnamed.
“They basically claimed they knew that our paper was planning to report the story, which sounded like fishing to me. I pretended I had no clue what they were talking about and forced them to go over it.
“They said someone might die if we go on and repeat the allegations, they made that very clear,” he said.
The editor said the CIO operation appeared aimed at "getting the threats in before the midweek papers and weekend editions" of the Financial Gazette, News Day, Zimbabwe Independent and Standard newspapers.
New Zimbabwe.com has learnt that President Mugabe met Gono for lunch on Monday, and advisers of the two men had met on Tuesday and Wednesday morning to map a strategy of tackling the damaging reports first carried in both the UK and South African Sunday Times newspapers.
A source familiar with the discussions said: “These have been intense discussions. Their lawyers have advised them that they have strong grounds to sue the Sunday Times newspapers for libel, but the political advisers are split.
“Some are saying they would rather the matter be totally ignored, but those on the opposite end of the planning say this would create a permanent impression that reports of the affair were true – something which would dog the rest of Mugabe’s presidency and subject both Gono and the First Lady to unending public ridicule.”
Meanwhile, President Mugabe and his wife made their first joint public appearance since Sunday at the burial of his brother in law at Kachere Farm in Concession on Tuesday.
Bonny Brian Gumbochuma, who died aged 57 last Saturday, was married to Grace Mugabe’s elder sister.
Mugabe described the late Gumbochuma as a humble person who helped him “integrate into the Marufu family”.