News In Depth: Bigwigs entangled in widening CIO number plates, smuggled cars scandal

Top politicians and government officials were caught up in a scandal involving the smuggling of vehicles into Zimbabwe by car dealers working Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives and would affix the smuggled cars with registration plates belonging to non-runner cars from the President’s Department.

DETAILS have emerged of how top politicians and government officials were caught up in a scandal involving the smuggling of vehicles into Zimbabwe by car dealers working with Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives.

The syndicate would affix the smuggled cars with registration plates belonging to non-runner cars from the President’s Department.

This publication understands that more than 500 registration plates could have been affixed to top-of-the-range vehicles that would have been smuggled into Zimbabwe.

The syndicate allegedly hatched the plot to avoid paying excise duty and Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) toll fees.

Also, the registration plates were allegedly being sold for between US$500 and US$2 000 with many of the plates being those allocated to the counter-intelligence department of the CIO.

Indications are that the web is so huge that those being arrested are just small fish.

Part of the scandal was exposed during the election period when observer missions hired cars affixed with CIO registration plates from people that had bought them.

“One of the vehicles was identified in a theft from a case which involved the daughter of a high-profile person, Saviour Kasukuwere,” a source said.

“The racket is very big and complex. You cannot tell where it starts and where it ends.”

Many of the cars were smuggled from South Africa through the Beitbridge Border Post and the porous Limpopo River borderline.

Usually, the cases of smuggling and registration of vehicles involve State security agents, Central Vehicle Registration (CVR) and Zinara personnel as well as car sale proprietors.

So far, five CIO operatives have been nabbed over the scam, which has also seen a police officer, a pharmacist, car dealers and businessmen being nabbed.

A source said 26 vehicles have so far been recovered.

Now that the scandal has been exposed, names of politicians and government officials are being implicated.

Last week, one of the state agents and Vice-President Kembo Mohadi’s aide, Tatenda Dzapasi, were arrested for smuggling a vehicle and affixing it with stolen number plates from the CIO.

Dzapasi’s lawyer Norman Mugiya tried in vain to have the matter heard in camera saying it involved the security of the country.

Dzapasi is out on US$800 bail.

Sources said a CIO operative from the Counter-Intelligence Department was tortured for close to two weeks and had to seek medical and psychological assistance in a neighbouring country.

According to reliable sources, one of the senior intelligence officers at the research bureau  Godfrey Bvenura (65) was already retired, but continued liaising with CVR for new vehicle registration plates from CIO.

This publication heard that the CVR did not know that Bvenura was retired and hence they kept on assisting him with his requisitions for new registration plates.

When Bvenura was arrested, he was facilitating the registration of a Renault Duster vehicle, which was once owned by Zanu PF Member of Parliament for Goromonzi North and businessman Ozias Bvute.

 At some stage the car was also owned by Magna Muganhiri, who is President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s personal assistant of more than 30 years.

Allegations are that Bvenura was working together with one George Madziva, also a CIO operative.

 Madziva, who is stationed at State House research department in central Harare, recently appeared in court and was granted US$300 bail.

He was nabbed after being connected to the same Renault Duster vehicle, which had been affixed with registration plate AGF 8821.

Bvenura and Madziva would allegedly hook up with car dealers who would have smuggled vehicles through the Limpopo River and the car dealers would buy the number plates from the intelligence operatives.

A dealer Aleck Dzepatsva of Westgate in Harare  was arrested last week after he sold a smuggled Kia vehicle to one Edmore Manyonda.

The Kia truck’s chassis number had been obliterated.

In order to conceal the scandal, Dzepatsva and his suspected accomplices affixed the vehicle with registration plates AFB 5566, which belongs to Counter-Intelligence Department.

After investigations were conducted, the KIA truck was recovered from Manyonda.

It would seem it was not the first time Dzepatsva was doing it.

During initial court proceedings, it was heard that in May this year, Dzepatsva sold a Toyota Hilux GD-6 to one Enos Takundwa after it had been smuggled into Zimbabwe from South Africa through the Limpopo riverbed.

Dzepatsva and his accomplices who are still at large would smuggle top-of-the-range vehicles from South Africa and sell them either in Zimbabwe or other neighbouring countries.

They also smuggled an Isuzu KB single-cab truck, a Suzuki Vitara Brezza, and another Toyota Land Cruiser which they sold to Knowledge Chitewe of KC Motors.

Last week,  a CIO operative George Madziva who was most sought by the police as he was said to be the point man of people facilitating stolen vehicle registration, was arrested after being on the run for a long time.

Madziva appeared in court before Harare magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa and was represented by Liviours Mundieta.

The prosecution alleged that Madziva, who is employed by the President’s Department in the research and development division in Harare, teamed up with Bvenhura and a third person only identified as Simba.

They allegedly made an application to CVR purporting that the President’s Department, based at Chaminuka Building, was applying for a registration book and plates in respect of a Renault Duster vehicle chassis number MEEHSRSGEJ200112.

The CVR acted on the misrepresentation and processed the registration book and number plates.

 Its deputy registrar one Mrs Chidzvete became suspicious of the application since an individual had applied for number plates for the President’s Department and alerted both the police and the President’s Department.

When Madziva and Bvenhura went to collect the plates and registration book on October 11, they failed since Chidzvete was not available.

The next day, the two went back to CVR, where Bvenhura was arrested as he was about to receive the registration book and number plates.

George Madziva made good his escape.

Chidzvete, the CVR Deputy Registrar, produced a vehicle registration book for the Renault Duster vehicle registration number AGF 8821 in the name of the President’s Department, which were recovered as exhibits.

Three weeks ago, Sean Motors and Electricals director Persuade Kaseke appeared before Harare magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa facing charges of fraud.

Kaseke, who was released on US$800 bail, was represented by Oliver Marwa.

The prosecution alleged that sometime last year, Kaseke smuggled a Toyota Fortuner into Zimbabwe and affixed it with a registration plates, AFC 0441 that belong to a vehicle from the President’s Department.

He then displayed it for sale at Sean Motors car sale at the intersection of Robert Mugabe Street and Chiremba Road in Harare.

Kaseke then generated a fake registration book for the car, which purported that the car was from the President’s Department.

On January 19 this year, one Thomas Tatenda Marongwe, who is already on remand, connived with Kaseke and approached one Elton Tapiwa Zikatih after they had discovered that he was looking for a Toyota Fortuner model.

Marongwe and Kaseke, the court heard, misrepresented to Zikatih that the car was disposed of by government and had been sold to a senior government official, who was also selling it.

Zikatih made a deal with the two that he would swap his Toyota Hilux GD-6 with registration AFW 2782 and would top up with US$10 000.

Marongwe and Kaseke gave Zikatih an exemption letter and assured him that he could drive the vehicle around without any problems until November 2023 when a change of ownership would have been required.

However, the state has since seized the vehicle.

 In another case, Kaseke allegedly smuggled a silver Toyota Prado with chassis number JTEPH3F-350K026015.

 He affixed registration AGA 3583 to the car. The plates had been stolen from the President’s Department.

 On July 7, Terrance Tagwireyi bought a Toyota Prado AFZ 3291 and an agreement of sale was prepared and signed by the two, Tagwireyi and Kaseke.

There was a condition that Tagwireyi could only collect the vehicle on August 31, 2023 after paying the balance since he had only paid the deposit.

When Tagwireyi went back to pay the balance in August, he was told that the car had been sold and would be given a replacement vehicle within seven days.

When Tagwireyi made follow-ups, the accused Kaseke was evasive.

The prosecution alleged that Kaseke then gave Tagwireyi the smuggled Toyota Fortuner for temporary use which bore registration plates of a vehicle from the President’s Department.

When Tagwireyi tried to make follow-ups, Kaseke became evasive and the matter came to light when Tagwireyi went to the car sale to demand the registration book for the car, where instead he was given an exemption certificate.

After further investigations, Tagwireyi found that the registration plates belonged to another car.

In another case, the prosecution alleged that on another date this year, Kaseke and Elias Murandu smuggled a Ford Ranger Wildtrak.

In March, the two approached Charles Dengura, whom they had previously sold a Chevrolet Captiva.

After about two weeks, Dengura paid US$14 000 for the Ford Ranger.

Kaseke and Murandu prepared an agreement of sale and they affixed registration plate AGA 5824 to the car.

The plate belonged to a vehicle from the President’s Department.

Dengura got possession of the car, but he was not given the registration book.

Some of the offences came to light when the President’s Department witnessed a surge in the number of the department’s missing registration plates affixed to vehicles that were moving around the country.

The matter was reported to the police.

 Investigations led to the recovery of some of the cars.

It would seem the police have also joined the fray after being entangled in the vehicle registration plates scam.

Chancellor Nathan Garikayi, a member of Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) stationed in Gutu, last week appeared in court for allegedly stealing vehicle registration plates belonging to the Office of the President and selling them to third parties.

He faces two counts of abuse of office and theft and is out on US$200 bail. He will be back in court on December 8.

Allegations are that in February this year, Garikayi received information that Tatenda Garvin Chigumbura, who is already on bail pending trial, bought a white Ford Ranger double-cab vehicle which had been blacklisted by CVR.

Garikayi then arrested Chigumbura, but later released him without impounding the motor vehicle.

The next month, Garikayi supplied Chigumbura with a third number plate and registration number plates AFY 3520 which belonged to the President’s Department, which plates were affixed to the Ford Ranger.

On September 28, police arrested Chigumbura, who implicated Garikayi as the one who had supplied the registration plates.

The smuggled motor vehicle was impounded, while the registration plates were recovered.

A fraudulently obtained registration book of the motor vehicle and one piece of registration plate AFX 3910 were also recovered.

On another charge, the prosecution alleges that sometime this year, Garikayi, in the company of Gasa Mukuta who is a member of the President’s Department stationed at Braeside office and is still at large, hatched a plan to steal registration plates at the Braeside office.

The two then stole vehicle registration numbers AES 2942 and sold them to Blessing Katsatse for US$2 000, who then affixed the registration plates on a Toyota Fortuner which is suspected to have been smuggled from South Africa.

Police recovered the stolen number plates from Katsatse and impounded the Toyota Fortuner.

This publication understands that some of the car dealers have since hidden their vehicles,which were smuggled into the country.

 It is also alleged those who are connected to the system are buying the registration plates at cheap prices after facilitating smooth registration through connections in the system before they sell them at exorbitant prices.

 Prominent businessman Edmore Zviitwah, who is the director for Legends of Kebab Restaurant, last month appeared in court on allegations of smuggling vehicles and concealing the illicit deals by affixing them with a set of registration numbers which belong to Counter Intelligence Department.

 Zviitwah (52), popularly known as Eddie Kebab, was faced with fraud charges. He was granted US$200 bail.

 The prosecution alleged that between 2019 and 2020, Eddie connived with one Philemon Zviitwah and smuggled a Toyota Quantum into Zimbabwe.

 They then tampered with the motor vehicle’s chassis and engine numbers.

On January 11, 2020, Eddie went to a car breaker, Joseph Tendai Musakwa, at Gazaland Shopping Centre in Highfield and bought a body shell of a Toyota Hiace silver in colour with registration number ADC 9451, chassis number KDH200-0043491.

 It did not have an engine and was registered in the name of Benedictor Kanosvamhira.

 Philemon signed the agreement of sale and took possession of the vehicle body shell and its registration book.

 Eddie then went to CVR, where he misrepresented the actual facts and applied for change of vehicle number plates in respect of ADC 9451.

 He was issued with a new vehicle registration book under certificate number C0001072483, registration number plates AFG 0224.

The court heard that Zviitwah later affixed the number plates on the smuggled Toyota Quantum, which he had smuggled.

 The motor vehicle is currently held by the state as an exhibit.

 On another count, Eddie allegedly smuggled a Hyundai H1 van into Zimbabwe between 2017 and 2018.

 The vehicle’s chassis number was tampered with, according to the prosecution.

 Eddie then affixed the vehicle with a set of registration number plates AFE 6334 which belong to the Counter-Intelligence Department.

 The Hyundai H1 van was also recovered from Eddie and is being held as an exhibit.

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