GOVERNMENT has launched yet another investigation — the third one so far in as many weeks — into the controversial AK-47s arms import saga through Beitbridge Border Post which is now entangled in state and Zanu PF power struggles.
Security sources told The NewsHawks another investigation team, this time from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), was recently dispatched to Beitbridge to probe the role of different state institutions into the issue, including the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and other relevant agencies.
This means three teams have so far been down to Beitbridge to probe the issue: First, the army one led by Brigadier-General Steven Gwekwerere; second, another military one headed by Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda (pictured) and the third by a CIO officer.
These investigations were about getting to the bottom of the issue to find out what actually happened, how and why, the sources say.
This came as fears mounted within President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inner security circle that the arms smuggled into the country through Beitbridge by a seasoned arrested gun-runner were meant to attack the President ahead of the recent Zanu PF congress, military sources say.
Zanu PF recently held its elective congress from 26 to 29 October at the Harare International Conference Centre.
The guns controversy came against a backdrop of a power schism, infighting and internal strife pitting Mnangagwa against his deputy Constantino Chiwenga, including their factions. Mnangagwa emerged victorious at the congress after outmanoeuvring Chiwenga, although the Vice-President and his allies say their defeat amounted to a strategic retreat — calm before a storm.
Top military sources say Mnangagwa firmly believes there was a plot to attack him for political and power-seeking reasons, just like what happened at White City Stadium in Bulawayo in June just before the July 2018 general elections.
The say Mnangagwa thinks the guns initially ordered for the Presidential Guard were not meant to protect him as expected, but to kill him or oust him from power.
“It has now become a big and sensitive political issue,” a military source said.
“The President and his security team think that there was a sinister agenda behind the guns smuggling saga. There are too many things raising the eyebrows. To begin with, there was no proper documentation for those guns, including the purchase order, import permit and consignee,” a military source said.
“Even the way the weapons had been transported from Johannesburg (South Africa) to Beitbridge (Zimbabwe) was suspicious. There were no security arrangements, including an escort car as should be the case. When the clearing documents were examined they had no name of the consignee. The clearing agent rejected them. Something unusual and fishy was happening.”
The sources said Mnangagwa and his security are questioning the coincidence between the arms smuggling incident and his presence two days apart in Beitbridge to officially commission the upgraded and modernised border post on 31 August. Mnangagwa arrived in Beitbridge two days after the guns had been smuggled into the country. Indeed, two days after the arms dealer was arrested in a case which now involves Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) general manager Hope Goliath Mutize and its project officer, Group Captain Leonard Matambo, an Air Force of Zimbabwe senior commissioned officer.
Some of the documents required for clearing purposes include: a bill of entry, which constitutes part of the key paperwork for import customs clearance; invoice, the prime document in any business transaction; import licence; insurance certificate for import customs clearance procedures; and purchase order, which reflects almost all terms and conditions of the sale contract that enables customs officers to confirm on value assessment.
However, the real problem for the AK-47s coming into the country is that the goods had no consignee.
“That’s where the problem started at customs,” a customs source said.
As a result, military sources say Mnangagwa ordered a thorough investigation into the incident, suspecting the weapons were targeted at overthrowing or harming him.
The guns order had initially come from the Zimbabwe National Army — through the G-Branch — and was first given to Ukubambana Commodities (Pvt) Ltd managing director Gladman Chipidza who then contracted former army doctor and now arms dealer, Gugulethu Mabhena.
Mabhena then went to Spartan Arms International, which sells arms in Edenvale, Johannesburg, South Africa, to buy the guns, sources added. However, Mabhena bought a wrong consignment which was later rejected.
He bought T-56 assault rifles — a Chinese 7.62×39mm rifle — instead of the original Soviet-designed AK47. He carried the weapons in his vehicle from Johannesburg to Beitbridge without any security procedures and papers, waltzed his way through the border from the South African side before he was caught at customs on the Zimbabwean side.
The guns were ordered for the Presidential Guard, an elite unit responsible for protecting the President. The brigade is organised into two units located in Harare: 1 Presidential Guard Battalion based at State House and 2 Presidential Guard Battalion at Dzivaresekwa Barracks.
The Presidential Guard headquarters is in Dzivaresekwa and is under the command of Brigadier-General Fidelis Mhonda. Mabhena — a gun-runner with years of experience in the murky trade — smuggled the wrong guns via Beitbridge but, instead of taking back the unwanted consignment, he sought to construct an elaborate cover-up for the costly mistake, leading to his arrest.