ZIMBABWE – AS Zanu PF’s vicious factional fights escalate, on May 20 Zimbabwe Sugar Milling Industry Workers Union (Zismiu) president Simbarashe Nyemba received a chain of disturbing messages from his brother Karimboni (39) claiming he had been abducted by a serving Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) captain in Chiredzi and a detective inspector from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).
Simbarashe, a Zanu PF member, has not heard from his brother, who also belongs to the ruling party, since then.
The last time the family saw him was in April when he went to sell fertiliser in Chisumbanje via Mkwasine where he was due to collect more fertiliser for sale.
Nyemba says the abduction was as a result of the escalating factional fights in Zanu PF’s Masvingo province — the party’s political hotbed — as President Robert Mugabe’s succession race turns ever dirtier.
He believes his brother was targeted because of his perceived links to fired former vice-president Joice Mujuru, who was patron of Zismiu.
Simbarashe said problems started last year when he, together with Karimboni, and the union’s secretary-general Edmore Hwarare were accused of being “Gamatox”, belonging to the Mujuru faction. Two Zanu PF camps, one led by Hwarare and the other by former Masvingo governor Titus Maluleke, were fighting to take control of the trade union.
Karimboni’s disappearance resembles that of missing journalist-cum-political activist Itai Dzamara who went missing eight months ago. Dzamara, known mostly for his “Occupy Africa Unity Square” campaign against Mugabe’s government, was abducted by suspected state security agents on March 9 near his home and his whereabouts remain a mystery with the police accused of doing little to locate him.
However, unlike Dzamara, Karimboni was able to alert his brother about his abductors through some messages.
Despite making a police report at Chiredzi Police Station (case number 4835) the day he received the disturbing messages, no action has been taken to find his brother.
Simbarashe said instead, the police told him they could not deal with the matter as it was “too sensitive”.
The police, he said, advised him to search for his brother on his own without their involvement.
“Soon after I received the messages I went to the police station desperately looking for their help. I thought they would go to the captain’s house where my brother had said he was being held.
“But sadly, I was told to look for Karimboni on my own,” a devastated Simbarashe said this week. “I tried calling the number which my brother had used, but it was no longer available.”
Karimboni worked at Zismiwu as an undercover security officer. He is married with an 11-year-old daughter.
The Zimbabwe Independent has copies of messages allegedly sent by Karimboni to Simbarashe using a phone which he said he got from a woman staying at the captain’s house where he was allegedly held captive.
According to the messages, Karimboni was tortured and threatened with death if he refused to do as instructed.
Part of message read: “Mukoma bata mashoko aya, ndakatorwa na (names of army captain and CID officer given) vakandi tocha … tabva muMasvingo between Four brigade ne Muti murefu kuma 7/8 mota yakarova munhu. (captain) akati kuna (CID officer) waidriver Benz yacho usamira munhu iyeye handifungi kuti mupenyu uye vaizozikanwa kuti ndovaneni.
Tasvika mu Chiredzi ndakavati ndiisei muma cell (captain) akandibudisira pfuti chaaiti isilence gun pamba peaimbove governor (My brother mark these words I was abducted by an army captain and CID officer and they tortured me. When we left Masvingo between Four Brigade and the tall tree at around 7-8pm they knocked down someone with the car, but the captain advised the CID officer who was driving the Mercedes Benz not to stop as he believed the person he hit was dead and stopping would expose them as my captors. When we arrived in Chiredzi I asked to be placed in police cells, but the army captain pointed a gun at me saying he would use it to silence me. We were now at a former Masvingo governor’s house).”
At the former minister’s house, the two were said to have left the Mercedes Benz and taken a Land Cruiser, which they used to take him to the army captain’s house where Karimboni says he was held up for three days during which time he was only served tea once a day.
In another text message, Karimboni wrote: “Mukoma ini ndatungamira tosangana mberi, mukadzi ndakatoti atize nekuti vanomuziva vakatombotomupa mari … waiti iye nemukadzi wake vane licence yokuuraya. Musanditsvaka vachanetswa nemweya wangu. (My brother we will meet in the next world, I told my wife to run away as they know her since they once gave her some money … said his wife and he have licences to kill. Do not bother to look for me, they (abductors) will be haunted by my spirit.”
In an interview, Chiredzi West MP Darlington Chiwa, who has written twice to ZNA commander Lieutenant-General Phillip Valerio Sibanda on July 15 and October 6 asking him to investigate the captain, said they want answers over Karimboni’s disappearance.
“Every person should be accountable for their actions, we are troubled whether or not Karimboni is alive and we would like this matter to be taken to court,” he said.
When Simbarashe sought his help after the police turned him away, Chiwa approached the police, who also told him the matter was sensitive and were awaiting further instruction from their bosses.
“After I was dismissed by Superintendent Chazireni, I then wrote a letter to the Army commander Valerio Sibanda whom I asked to deal with the matter fairly and I indicated that the reports of (the CID officer) had tarnished the image of the party and the image of the army as already he (name stated) does not have good relations with the people of Chiredzi,” Chiwa said.
Chiwa only got a response after the second letter when Sibanda sent a representative whom he met in Chiredzi last week after which he promised to get back to him.
“The barbaric act of abduction of Karimboni Nyemba by (army captain and CID officer) who homosexually abused him is a matter that I will continue to fearlessly raise as it is a part of my mandate to uphold the constitution of Zimbabwe,” read part of the letter to Sibanda dated October 6.
Chiwa told the Independent this week: “As an MP, my role is to uphold the constitution; we cannot have people who take the law into their hands. It is saddening that the police cannot deal with this as they declared, and so far no action has been taken. Those who commit crime should be dealt with according to the law without fear or favour.”
Chiwa also took the matter to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, which is currently investigating the case.
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson Elasto Mugwadi this week said: “… someone was abducted from the sugar estates in Chiredzi in May and we were just wondering why the relatives took time in filing the report with us as the report only came on Monday. On quizzing them on the delay of the report, the relatives said they had made a report to the police and the abductors are known but the police have not reacted, so we are going to be investigating this complaint ourselves.”
When contacted for comment ZRP spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said she had not yet received the report and suggested the reporter should contact Masvingo provincial police spokesperson Charity Mazula, whose phone went unanswered.
ZNA spokesperson Alphios Makotore said: “Once the matter involves an MP I can’t comment on it, I only comment on issues to do with soldiers.”
When asked to explain since the matter involves a serving army officer, Makotore still refused to comment.