HARARE – Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of a retired army colonel who was allegedly abducted from his home on Sunday afternoon by masked men — amid claims that he was due to testify before the official probe looking into the August 1 post-election shootings which claimed the lives of at least six civilians.
To add to the intrigue, Elliot Piki, 58, was a losing candidate in the fiercely-fought Zanu PF primary elections for Harare South — which were won by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s nephew, Tongai.
Piki’s family told the Daily News yesterday that he had been abducted — allegedly to try and stop him from giving evidence at the August 1 killings Commission of Inquiry that is chaired by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe.
“I have heard that he received threatening calls from a NetOne line for almost a week and when he went out to find out about the number, the number was not registered.
“The threatening calls continued in which he was told not to testify before the commission. He was supposed to testify today (yesterday) … but the people who took him were heard asking him what he wanted to gain in supporting (opposition leader Nelson) Chamisa.
“We have the invitation from the commission … and we haven’t heard anything about his whereabouts although we have reported the case at Waterfalls Police Station (RRB number 3784040),” Piki’s son, Daniel, said.
However, the spokesperson of the inquiry, John Masuku, said yesterday that Piki’s name was not on the list of people who were due to testify before the probe.
“I asked the commissioners and they said he was not on the list,” Masuku said.
According to eyewitnesses, an unregistered grey Toyota Hilux pulled up at Piki’s residence in Harare South on Sunday afternoon, where four men had a brief chat with the retired soldier before “suddenly” bundling him into their bakkie and driving away.
“Around 4pm, four people in a grey D4D came to his house. There is a butchery and a shop at his home … and he was there playing checkers with a young man who also lives there.
“One of the four guys came and went to where the two were seated. They talked briefly before they were joined by the other three who were now wearing masks.
“When he tried to resist, they fired two gunshots and forced him into their car before they sped off.
“When he was abducted he was wearing a blue jersey and his abduction was witnessed by several people,” one of the eyewitnesses told the Daily News.
Piki’s family has since engaged the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) to help find the retired army officer who is said to have been keen to use his military expertise to help the commission unravel the August 1 killings.
“I have just received the request to handle the matter so I don’t have much to say,” said Jeremiah Bhamu of ZLHR.
The MDC later claimed in a statement that Piki had submitted a damning report to the Motlanthe-led commission of inquiry.
“Piki … submitted a damning document that exposes the Zanu PF government on the August 1 shootings. The MDC condemns the continued use of force, violence and abductions by the State.
“This modus operandi reminds us of the chilling abduction and disappearance of Itai Dzamara over four years ago. Up to this day, we have not seen or heard from him,” MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said.
Several other people who were interviewed by the Daily News yesterday also claimed that the ex-soldier wanted to “spill the beans” — in the same way that former Zanu PF activists Jim Kunaka and Shadreck Mashayamombe had done when they appeared before the commission last week.
Mashayamombe and Kunaka, who were both fired from Zanu PF after the fall from power of former president Robert Mugabe in a military putsch in November last year, characterised Zanu PF and its government at the probe as violent and wicked.
Mnangagwa appointed the killings inquiry in September, to probe the August 1 deaths which sullied the relatively peaceful July 30 national elections which had been widely hailed up to that point.
Apart from Motlanthe, the other members of the inquiry are academics Lovemore Madhuku and Charity Manyeruke, Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) ex-president Vimbai Nyemba, Rodney Dixon of the United Kingdom, former Tanzanian chief of the defence forces General Davis Mwamunyange and ex-Commonwealth secretary-general Chief Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria.
Things at the probe got heated in the last few weeks after security chiefs testified and wholly absolved the military of the killings in the process.
The commander of the Defence Forces, Phillip Valerio Sibanda, and police commissioner-general Godwin Matanga, also appeared to blame the MDC and Chamisa for the deaths.
Last week, temperatures were further raised when Mashayamombe and Kunaka gave gory accounts of wanton “crimes and violations” which they said were part of life during their time in Zanu PF.