The read VW bus being used to ferry Jestina Mukoko and the abductees to court, photographed here, is the latest talk of the twon in Harare (and South Africa!). Note the South African number plates!
Abducted human rights activist, Jestina Mukoko, charged with recruiting "insurgents" on behalf of Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC to topple Robert Mugabe is actually not in police custody, we have learnt. We went digging after being puzzled by the use of the red VW van to ferry her and her fellow accused to court.
It is all just for show, apparently. Although Mukoko and the others are indeed imprisoned at the infamous Chikurubi Prison in Harare, the case is still being handled by the CIO and "special investigators". It is also the CIO who are giving pointers and sometimes even orders to prosecutors from the Attorney-General's office. Briefings on this case are being handled by the CIO leadership together with the newly appointed Attorney General at a house in Harare. The police are out of the loop completely and do not even attend these meetings, not even their chief Augustine Chihuri, since they are not investigating this thing at all.
Perhaps now you understand why the "investigating officer" for the police was surprised to hear that prisoners had disappeared after their first appearance in court?
The riot squad (used recently to quell "riots" by soldiers) that accompanies the prisoners to court is also not what i seems. It appears that at least some of the people in that group are actually soldiers whose names are known to their comrades and who have been identified as such in these photographs. They are all taking their orders directly from Chaminuka Building, the HQ of the secret police, the CIO, who in turn are getting their orders directly from Munhumutapa Building, Mugabe office. All of them, the protective or escort riot squad, the prosecution and, of course, the magistrates and judges themselves.
It is a lie that the case is being handled by the Law and Order section of the police. They were put in front of all this rather hastily on 22 December 2008, in order to give the whole thing a resemblance of following due process. No one at Central Police Station in Harare is privy what is really up with this case.
It is also now apparent that there are judges who have been picked to hear the case (three of them, just in case) and the courts will ensure that anything to do with this case is brought to any one of them and nobody else.
There are CIO operatives as well as a beefed-up armed guard now permanently stationed at the prison where the abductees are being kept. They are still being questioned, which is why you are unlikely to see this court case begin in earnest for some weeks. It is not the police doing the questioning, obviously, but the CIO. "It's a national security issue," as the minister in charge of the secret police, the CIO, told the court this week.
Guys, the real business of this Jestina Mukoko court case is being done outside the courtroom and what we see happening in the courts is simply a show. I have now come to realise this.
The CIO, also known as "The President's Office" in Zimbabwe, the description they themselves prefer to "CIO", are still very much in control of this whole case. Although the Prisons Department has trucks and vans in which it routinely ferries accused persons to court, this is not the case with this trial. When the accused are to go to court, the whole process, as with everything else about them now, is controlled by the CIO. That red van belongs to them. The South African plates are fake. The car is Zimbabwean, registered in Zimbabwe. I understand that the reason the real plates were taken off was to allow the car to continue in the service of the CIO without it being recognised or marked out for sabotage after this case is finished. Basically, they do not want this car's real credentials and owners identified.
There is no truth to the rumour that the car belongs to South African embassy. They have nothing to do with this apparently.
In short then, the prisoners are not in the custody of either the police or the prisons department, despite all appearances to the contrary. They are still the prisoners of the CIO and their incarceration at Chikurubi is simply to give the illusion of normalcy about the way they are being treated, when it is anything but.
Apparently, the President's office had actually made up their minds to take the prisoners back to "the farm" after their 24 December court appearance and that explains why they disappeared. As lawyers ran around trying to locate them, a crisis meeting was taking place in a leafy suburb to the north of Harare, just off Enterprise Road where it was then decided that, because they had already appeared in public "in the care of the police", according to the Attorney General, they was no way they could be taken back to the farm and still keep that location a secret. Their transfer to Prisons was hastily arranged then, under the personal direction of Prisons Commissoner General Paradzai Zimhondi (this is funny: that surname, a local language name means, literally, "The Big Murderer).
The abductees food is being watched carefully by the operatives who are stationed at the prison apparently, (and you have to laugh at this), because Mugabe thinks the trail will lead them to Tsvangirai and the top echelons of the MDC who, to avoid that, may arrange for the prisoners to be poisoned and killed so that there is no one to testify against Zimbabwe's Prime Minister-designate and implicate him in the "banditry" plan!
The prisoners themselves are checked on constantly and no prisons staff are allowed into the separate, special cell block where they are being kept before being frisked and unless accompanied by the CIO now stationed at the prison complex. It really does sound like Mugabe is taking himself very seriously on this one!
The plan is to grind the resistance and will of the prisoners down until, as I said a few days back on this blog, they give up their "masters", whom Mugabe believes to be the Botswana government and the MDC leadership. They are being promised leniency and even clemency -"for being led astray" are the words used by my source-if they spill the beans completely.
There is also another twist to this, which I really can not confirm at the moment, about the involvement of a certain Middle Eastern country in the investigations into the case. That country has a reputation for withstanding the most determined assaults of insurgents and their secret police are known to be friendly to, as well as collaborate with, the Zimbabwe CIO. That, if true, would require a post all its own.