Zimbabwe: Cops, army deny holding Mphoko

Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of former vice president Phelekezela Mphoko who arrived in the country on Friday through Plumtree Border Post amid reports that he might have been detained upon his entry in the country from Botswana.  Former Higher and Tertiary Education minister, Jonathan Moyo, alleged yesterday that Mphoko had been handed to the Zimbabwean authorities by his hosts, the Government of Botswana.

“Impeccable sources in Plumtree say that the Botswana immigration authorities have today handed over former VP Phelekezela Mphoko to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) who are said to be holding him. Why this is happening after assurances that he was free to return is mind boggling!” Moyo wrote on Twitter.

While the ZDF and the police have denied Moyo’s claims, highly-placed sources in government told the Daily News on Sunday that Mphoko faces charges of defeating the course of justice as he has been implicated in a couple of confrontations with law enforcement agents.

In July last year, he reportedly descended on Avondale Police Station in Harare at night and ordered the release of top Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) officials namely Moses Juma (former acting chief executive officer of Zinara) and Davison Norupiri (a non-executive director),who had been arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) on graft allegations involving over $1,3 million.

Mphoko, who was acting president at the time, arrived at the police station at night and secured the immediate release of the duo on the grounds that they were “his boys”.  Mugabe was away in Rwanda when this happened.

Mphoko was also acting president in May this year when he allegedly caused a storm after he reportedly stormed into Bulawayo Central Police Station, and expressed anger over the arrest of several Zanu PF activists in connection with the intra-party violence that had occurred at the party’s provincial offices at Davis Hall. He also reportedly secured their release.

Contacted for comment yesterday, both the police and ZDF denied claims that they had taken Mphoko into their custody. “It’s not our duty to arrest people; that is the duty of the police. You should be calling Mai Charamba to ask about that,” said colonel Overson Mugwisi, spokesperson of the ZDF. Police spokesperson, Charity Charamba, professed ignorance over the matter saying as far as she was concerned, the former vice president was not wanted by the police.

Mphoko had been holed up in Botswana since the ZDF launched Operation Restore Legacy, targeting “criminal” elements around former president Robert Mugabe, accused of causing instability in the country.  He had left the country on an official visit to Japan on November 14, a day before the army launched the operation but did not return home until Friday when he resurfaced at Plumtree Border Post where he and his family were driven through to the Zimbabwe border side in a kombi.

They were then whisked away in private vehicles. Mphoko’s sudden return followed media reports that Botswana had given him until December 1 to leave the country or face deportation.

The Botswana government, through Twitter, denied the report saying Mphoko had left the country on his own volition. “Former vice president Mphoko was not deported from Botswana…Mphoko entered Botswana on the November 22, 2017 from a third country. He departed for Zimbabwe yesterday of his own free will,” the Government of Botswana said in a statement released to clarify Mphoko’s return on Friday. “Mphoko, was not deported or otherwise forced to leave Botswana.”

With most of the G40 members either detained or in hiding, Mphoko, who is linked to G40, might have been hesitant to come back home as he feared the prospects of arrest. Also in August this year, Mphoko was named in a bribery case in which he is alleged to have controversially acquired a stake in a business run by a Bulawayo-based Pakistani family. The Pakistanis, led by Imran Shahzad, were under investigation on allegations of procuring and rebranding expired foodstuffs at ridiculously low prices from South Africa for re-sale in the country.

Imran and family run Bulk Cash and Carry Wholesalers (BCCW) in Bulawayo, an entity many residents here now believe sells cheaper foodstuffs and basic commodities. – Daily News