HARARE – Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa has stepped in to defuse a bitter Twitter row between her deputy Energy Mutodi and Alpha Media Holdings publisher Trevor Ncube.

At the height of the row which raged all weekend, Ncube labelled Mutodi a “thug” and Mutodi, a retired rhumba musician, said the veteran journalist was “thoughtless” and yet he saw himself as “Clever Ncube”.

Mutodi had also threatened that the government could pull advertising from Ncube’s newspapers – NewsDay, the Standard and the Zimbabwe Independent.

The fallout took a disturbing turn when police last Friday arrested over a dozen youths who allegedly seized copies of the newspapers from vendors and set them on fire.

The spat sucked in other politicians and media groups.

On Monday, the two men had smoked a peace pipe and were made to shake hands at a news conference by Mutsvangwa.

In a rap on the knuckles for her deputy, she insisted that her ministry was obligated to “embrace everyone including those who we disagree with and those we may not agree with.”

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“The Ministry is not going to have an ‘Us versus Them’ attitude to the private media but will treat all players as a relevant 4th Estate supporting our mantra of ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’… Zimbabwe is Open for Media Business,” she said.

Posting a picture of himself and Ncube on Twitter, alongside Information Ministry Secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana, Mutodi said: “I have buried the hatchet with my brother Trevor Ncube in the good spirit of our new 2nd Republic. A friendship built after a fight is long-lasting.”

Ncube, a prominent supporter of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, had received support from unusual quarters, including MPs Temba Mliswa and Justice Mayor Wadyajena and the exiled former Information Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo.

Tagging Mutodi’s tweet threatening to stop government adverts going to Alpha Media, Moyo tweeted: “Given the new Constitution, the claim of a ‘new dispensation’ that’s open for business will ultimately stand or fall on how the authorities treat those who disagree with them. Licencing authorities ought to know that ‘thoughtless rants’ are neither illegal nor unconstitutional!”

Mliswa told Mutodi he liked him and worked very well with him, but added: “Your utterance against Trevor Ncube was in bad taste and as such you should retract your statement. It does nothing for your image, that of the Ministry and nation at large. What’s wrong is wrong.”

Wadyajena, also weighing in on Ncube’s side, accused Mutodi of “misusing your Energy.”

“This conduct borders on criminal abuse of office and may one day get you in serious trouble. I know for sure His Excellency Emmerosn Mnangagwa disapproves this crap. We did not fight for this. This careless tweet will destroy what Zimbabweans are building!”