HARARE – The state-run Sunday Mail newspaper has sacked its deputy editor, Munyaradzi Huni, allegedly for being “too close” with opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.

Huni, who has been with the Zimpapers-owned paper approaching 25 years, knew of the plans to sack him at least two weeks ago.

On Thursday, he told colleagues he had been ousted.

Huni’s exit had sent shock-waves through the company, which operates under a meddlesome environment created by Zanu PF ministers over many years, with editors kicked out if their political leanings are questioned.

Zimpapers CEO Pikirayi Deketeke had not responded to a message seeking comment last night, while Huni declined to speak.

The veteran journalist’s departure is particularly shocking to colleagues because he was seen as the “system man” who had developed strong relations with powerful Zanu PF politicians over the years.

He was running an independence war series in the Mail, ‘Second Chimurenga Chronicles’, a project supported by Zimbabwe’s military. He has interviewed dozens of liberation war veterans, bringing to life stories of heroism, betrayal and defeat from the 1980s bush war for independence from colonial rule.

He was also the pen behind an anonymous column, Bishop Lazarus, which weekly carried scathing commentary, mainly targeted at opposition politicians.

Several senior editors have left Zimpapers over the last two decades, among them George Chisoko, The Herald’s Senior Assistant Editor; Mduduzi Mathuthu who was The Chronicle editor; Funny Mushava, Brezhnev Malaba and Edmund Kudzayi who were Huni’s editors at The Sunday Mail; Ray Mungoshi, one-time editor of The Herald and Edna Machirori who was ousted from The Sunday News.

A political hand was involved in all their departures under different Information Ministers.

Huni has told friends he was told that “the system wants you gone”, which he had taken to mean senior figures in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government were pushing for his exit.

But he insisted he has done nothing wrong.

On Thursday night, there were persistent rumours in media circles, which we could not independently verify, that Huni’s phones had been hacked.

Zimpapers typically avoids long, drawn-out legal battles with its editors and tries to sweeten their departures with generous financial exit packages.