PROMINENT academic and publisher Ibbo Mandaza was recently taken to task by state security agents for allegedly writing the damning United Nations (UN) report on Operatio
n Murambatsvina which exposed the government to international criticism.
This comes against a background of disclosures this week that the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) was behind the catastrophic demolition blitz.
An article written by government’s overseas spin-doctor, New African magazine editor Baffour Ankomah, carried by the state-owned Herald, said the CIO designed the widely condemned operation which the UN said displaced at least 700 000 people and affected 2,4 million.
Ankomah said the CIO designed Murambatsvina to pre-empt a foreign-induced uprising against President Robert Mugabe’s regime after initial moves to incite a revolt in reaction to accusations of electoral fraud in the aftermath of the disputed March general election failed.
Sources said Ankomah, who visited Harare in an all-government paid trip in August, was briefed about the CIO plot by a senior official in the Information ministry. The CIO was angry with the official, it was said.
Opposition MPs have called for a commission of inquiry to ascertain the architects of the operation and have them prosecuted. Independent MP Jonathan Moyo said yesterday the CIO had through Murambatsvina – which he described as a “military operation” – revived a “reign of terror reminiscent of the Gukurahundi days”.
Sources said Mandaza was quizzed by telephone by CIO director-general Happyton Bonyongwe over allegations that he wrote UN secretary-general Kofi Annan’s envoy Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka’s report on the operation.
Sources said Bonyongwe called Mandaza on August 2 to grill him over the report which riled Mugabe and ministers. Mandaza, difficult to interview since the Mediagate scandal, yesterday confirmed the issue.
“The issue was highlighted at the highest level and I was questioned by the state security agents by telephone during the Heroes Day holidays,” he said.
“I was asked whether or not I had met Tibaijuka while she was here. I said I did not meet her nor was I able to speak to her even though it is true that we tried to contact each other because she was my student at the University of Dar es Salaam.
“I heard the allegation that I had written the report or assisted in its writing but that’s entirely untrue and baseless. What is true is that I met some members of her team because they wanted to see me after reading my articles and books,” he said.
Mandaza said he only helped the Tibaijuka team to contextualise issues.
“I told the team that it was not true the operation was only targeted at opposition supporters because Zanu PF members were also affected,” he said.
“But the allegation persisted and there seems to be a connection between that claim and attempts to remove me from the Mirror newspapers.”