Augustine Mukaro/Shakeman Mugari
THE spectacular collapse of the Mutare arms-cache case has exposed the latest Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) bid to link the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and white farmers to an imagined plot to assassinate Pres
ident Robert Mugabe.
Intelligence sources said yesterday following the “discovery” of arms at the home of one of the suspects, Peter Hitschmann, government dispatched teams of CIO agents across the country to raid licensed arms dealers with the aim of publicising the findings as “evidence” of a nationwide terrorist plot.
The sources said the case was designed to make it appear as if the country was under attack.
“CIO operatives raided licensed farmers who used to supply and service all types of firearms to commercial farmers in the Karoi, Norton and Mazowe areas, but could not find anything incriminating,” a source said.
“The plan was to ‘discover’ arms to make it appear as if the country was under siege. The discoveries would have created an opportunity for the CIO to deal with the MDC, farmers and other perceived opponents.”
Government is thought to be working on a law termed the Suppression of International Terrorism Bill which will be used in such cases to show that unnamed foreign enemies are collaborating with alleged local saboteurs to oust Mugabe’s regime.
That was why, the sources said, the issue was linked to a shadowy group called the Zimbabwe FreedomMovement and Mozambique’s South African-sponsored rebel movement Renamo which is now the official opposition party in the country.
The “discovery” of arms — if it had gone according to plan — would then have been used as a pretext for a countrywide crackdown on MDC members, farmers and civil society activists.
The sources said the plan was to make arms “discoveries” in different parts of the country and make arrests all over the place, giving the impression of an organised attempt to kill Mugabe at his recent birthday celebrations in Mutare and oust government.
Sources said the CIO-manufactured plot was arranged along the lines of a series of cases of arms cache “discoveries” which have characterised security operations over the past 26 years. There has been a chain of alleged but invariably unproven plots to assassinate Mugabe and overthrow the government.
Even Zanu PF heavyweights such as Dumiso Dabengwa, who was part of the now defunct opposition PF Zapu, has been a victim of these machinations.
The consistent trait of these cases has been the arrest of people without evidence and trying to force them through torture and harassment to become witnesses against themselves.
Meanwhile, rights activist Peter Tatchell, who state sources have tried to link to the plot, has said he had nothing to do with it. Tatchell dismissed the reports as “Mugabe’s fairy tales” and “downright delusional”.
“I have never been involved with the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement,” he said this week. Once, in 2003, I was asked by Zimbabwean activists to distribute in the UK aZFM launch press communiqué and video recording. That was the startand finish of my connection with the ZFM.”
Justice Charles Hungwe heard that some of the suspects — who included Mutare North MP Giles Mutsekwa and seven others — had been tortured.
Sources said the current arms saga fell within an established pattern of behaviour by the CIO who are not accountable to public institutions like parliament even though they use public funds for their activities, but only ultimately to Mugabe.
. . . as pattern of ‘plots’ emerges
FEBRUARY 17, 1982: Mugabe fires Joshua Nkomo, Josiah Chinamano, Joseph Msika and Jini Ntuta for their alleged connection to companies outlawed by government following discovery of arms caches on Zapu properties.
March 11, 1982: Dumiso Dabengwa and deputy commander of the national army, Lieutenant-General Lookout Masuku are arrested along with Zapu official Swazini Ndlovu and charged with high treason.
May 21, 1982: State discovers arms caches around the country including Gweru (May 21), Kezi (July 13), Waterfalls in Harare (July 28) and at a farm near Chikurubi Maximum prison (July 25).
June 25 1982: State announces a shoot out at Mugabe’s residence. No arrests or further information on the issue.
December 10, 1982: Government captures bandits whom it claims confessed to planning to kill Mugabe on his way to Beitbridge and blow up oil tanks in the town. The case is not heard of again.
March 23, 1983: Masuku and six others are cleared of high treason charges. But Dabengwa remains charged with the same offence while six other Zapu cadres still face alternative charges under the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act for illegal possession of offensive weapons.
April 28, 1983: Dabengwa is cleared of the high treason charges but the state detains him and Masuku under Section 17 of the Emergency Powers Regulations.
Nov 2, 1983: Abel Muzorewa is arrested under Operation Chinyavada which government said was meant to deal with subversive elements connected to South African bandits. He is accused of sending 5 000 auxiliaries to SA to come and stage a coup. Muzorewa is later released.
October 14, 1995: Ndabaningi Sithole is arrested with two others for allegedly plotting to assassinate Mugabe. Sithole is sentenced in 1997 to two years in prison but dies while on appeal.
March 7, 1999: Three American citizens are arrested on terrorism and sabotage charges. Government claims they had arms of war, a diagram of State House and that they are linked to Angola’s Unita.
June 4, 1999: State withdraws terrorism and sabotage charges and accuses them of contravening the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act. They are sentenced to six months, later released and deported.
October 8, 2000: MDC MPs Tapiwa Mashakada, Job Sikala and Justin Mutendadzamera are arrested for allegedly inciting their supporters to topple the government but are later released after the judge dismisses their case as baseless.
January 8, 2002. Government accuses MDC of mounting terror attacks targeting Zanu PF and government officials with anthrax mail. The allegations are not sustained and the Herald later apologises to MDC.
February, 2002: Police arrest MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and other top officials on treason charges. The case involves dubious consultant Ari Ben-Menashe who claims to have been approached by Tsvangirai with plans to eliminate Mugabe. Tsvangirai is cleared in 2004.
September 2, 2002: MDC MP Tapiwa Mashakada is quizzed in connection with a bomb blast at Voice of the People radio station.
March 6, 2006: Government claims to have unearthed an arms cache in Mutare and the accused are reported to have planned to assassinate Mugabe during his birthday bash last month.
Wednesday 14, 2006: The charges are dropped before plea.