Minister denies that the CIO abducted activists
By Lance Guma
02 July 2009
State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi on Wednesday stunned a Harare Court by denying that the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) was involved in the abduction of opposition and human rights activists, including Jestina Mukoko, last year. This is despite his predecessor in the ministry, Didymus Mutasa, admitting earlier this year that he had sanctioned the operation as a matter of state security.
Sekeramayi was responding to an application by 6 MDC activists and photo-journalist Anderson Manyere, who had asked for their trial on spurious charges of ‘bombing’ police stations and other targets to be referred to the Supreme Court. ‘It is denied that the applicants were kidnapped or abducted at all by State security agents,’ Sekeramayi claimed in an affidavit submitted to court.
Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama told Newsreel the Minister’s remarks were simply motivated by an attempt at ‘damage control.’ He said Sekeremayi was Defence Minister during the time of the abductions and could not speak authoritatively on the issue. Muchadehama said only if the army was involved in the abductions could Sekeramayi have any legitimacy to claim the CIO was not involved.
Kisimusi Dhlamini, Gandhi Mudzingwa, Chinoto Zulu, Zacharia Nkomo, Regis Mujeye, Mapfumo Garutsa and Manyere are all arguing that their abduction and subsequent torture violated their basic rights. They wanted the trial stopped while the Supreme Court deliberates on the violations they suffered. Sekeramayi however argued that this application was an attempt to avoid facing trial for the charges.
In the end High Court Judge Charles Hungwe ruled in favour of the abductees and rebuked state prosecutors for wasting his time with unreasonable excuses. ‘I am sorry this application is not frivolous and vexatious and therefore I refer this matter to the Supreme Court,’ Hungwe said in his ruling.
Over 40 MDC and civil society activists were abducted in a spate of government sanctioned operations between October and December 2008. In October state security agents abducted 14 MDC activists in Banket, including two year old Nigel Mutemagawu who was to spend 4 months in custody along with the adults. Fifteen armed men in civilian clothing also burst into the Norton home of former ZBC TV anchor Jestina Mukoko and abducted her.
Key officials in the then opposition MDC, such as Tsvangirai’s former aide Gandhi Mudzingwa and Security Chief Kisimusi Dhlamini, were to spend months in remand prison. Mugabe’s regime claimed some of the abducted activists were involved in the recruiting and training of bandits in neighbouring Botswana. Governments in the SADC region dismissed the charges as not credible. Despite the formation of a coalition government 4 months ago, no attempts have been made to drop the charges.