BY his own admission this week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa is the architect of Zimbabwe’s brutal security system which has left a trail of human rights violations, abductions, forced disappearances and countless murders.
Mnangagwa was the minister of State for National Security between 1980 and 1988 during which time the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) gained a reputation for brutality. The brutality tag has clung onto the CIO from Mnangagwa’s time as State Security minister to today.
“I have been Minister of National Security for a very long time. So, most of the systems in Zimbabwe I created them. So they always remember who their godfather is. So if you plan against me, I get to know,” Mnangagwa publicly boasted recently.
The CIO played a central role in the Gukurahundi genocide in the early 1980s, when approximately 20 000 people from the Matabeleland and Midlands regions were killed by North Korean-trained soldiers from the 5 Brigade. The troops were often working on intelligence supplied by the CIO.
Many Zapu leaders, including former Zipra intelligence supremo Dumiso Dabengwa and commander Lookout Masuku, were arrested and tortured, or kidnapped during Gukurahundi.
Masuku died at Parirenyatwa Hospital in 1986 from injuries sustained after being tortured while detained on trumped-up charges for plotting to overthrow the government.
Dabengwa was arrested together with Masuku on allegations of plotting a coup against then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s government in 1982, although the High Court cleared them of the allegations.
They were however arrested as soon as they stepped outside the court and detained illegally.
The CIO, working together with other security forces like the army and the police, has gained a reputation of not safeguarding the interests of the nation per se, but of furthering the interests of Zanu PF and its leaders.
Over the years, the CIO has gained a reputation of suppressing the opposition through infiltration and brutality while occasionally framing opposition leaders. The CIO has been associated with many cases of kidnappings from the 1980s to this day.
Some like Captain Edwin Nleya (1989), Rashiwe Guzha (1990), Patrick Nabanyama (2000), Paul Chizuze (2012), and Itai Dzamara (2015) disappeared without trace.
People like Cain Nkala (2001), Tonderai Ndira (2008), Abigail Chiroto (2008) were abducted and murdered after being tortured.
Just a fortnight ago, cleric and CCC activist Tapfumaneyi Masaya was abducted and killed while campaigning in Mabvuku ahead of parliamentary by-elections set for 9 December.
Many other people have been kidnapped and tortured, but lived to tell the tale.
This includes human rights activist and former journalist Jestina Mukoko (2008), Samantha Kureya (Gonyeti) (2019), legislator Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova in 2020.
State security agents were seen on CCTV footage kidnaping Tawanda Muchehiwa in 2020 while legislator Takudzwa Ngadziore recorded known CIO operatives closing in on him at the beginning of this month.
Both Muchehiwa and Ngadziore were tortured and injected with unknown substances.
In 2014, the then State Security minister Didymus Mutasa, while addressing a youth meeting in Mutare, said the government and former President Robert Mugabe’s critics would be subjected to similar treatment meted out to Catholic prelate Pius Ncube who was secretly filmed in a CIO sting operation in bed with a lover.
“Be careful not to denigrate our president; we will visit your bedrooms and expose what you will be doing,” Mutasa threatened.
“We have our means of seeing things these days, we just see things through our system. So no-one can hide from us in this country.”
The CIO has also been involved in undermining democracy. The CIO was involved in a sting operation against the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai to nail him on treason charges.
Tsvangirai was said to have been secretly recorded discussing the “elimination” of Mugabe with members of a Canadian consultancy firm led by Ari Ben-Menashe, who had links to Zanu PF. The discussion was said to have happened ahead of the 2002 presidential elections.
More recently the CIO, through Forever Associates Zimbabwe, was involved in the manipulation of the 2023 general elections by intimidating voters and collecting voter information ahead of and during polls. — STAFF WRITER.