MDC caught in CIO web

BY OWN CORRESPONDENT VICTORIA FALLS - The recent deportation of Morgan Tsvangirai and eight senior MDC officials from Zambia last week is part of a cat-and-mouse game that the opposition and the CIO have been playing for months. The officials are aware that their phones, homes and offices are bugged

. To evade surveillance, they nipped over the border to neighbouring Zambia for a strategy planning meeting with international NGOs. But the ever-vigilant CIO found out, followed them there and strong-armed their Zambian colleagues to throw them out. In order to evade raising suspicions in Zimbabwe, the MDC executives had travelled separately to Livingstone. But when Tsvangirai arrived at Victoria Falls airport, he was spotted by members of the CIO, who routinely stake out every airport in the country. They questioned him, but he refused to answer. However, by the time he got to the border there was a heavy presence of men in dark glasses. His passport was scrutinised and details of its contents noted. Other members of the group, Nelson Chamisa, William Bango, Eddie Cross, Pauline Mpariwa, Thokozani Khupe, Lucia Matibenga, Gertrude Mtombeni and Isaac Matongo, arrived the following day. Their passports were also examined by the CIO, but they were allowed to proceed. According to highly placed sources, the officials had only been meeting for an hour at the Zambezi Sun Hotel, when CIO officials attempted to enter the room. Hotel security was called and the officials left. Later that evening, a Zambian official came to the hotel and started questioning the visitors. Just before midnight, about 50 army, police, intelligence and immigration officials (none of them in uniform) arrived with a warrant from a local magistrate to search the visitors and their rooms. They were accused of failing to present themselves to an immigration officer at the border to declare the purpose of their visit, ordered to pack their bags and then taken to the border and deported at around 3am. “They had to walk from the Zimbabwean side to Victoria Falls village where they sat in the foyer of a local hotel until dawn,” said the source. Peeved at having been outwitted, Minister of State for National Security, Didymus Mutasa, has used the state media this week to conjure an impressive cloud of mystery and intrigue, claiming that the MDC group had met officials of Freedom House, an American NGO which promotes democracy. Using evocative words such as ‘divulge’, ‘national security’, ‘sinister’, ‘shrouded in mystery’ Mutasa is desperately trying to convince Zimbabweans that the MDC is up to no good. The Herald made the ludicrous claim that Freedom House “is known worldwide for fuelling civil unrest in countries seen as a threat to US policies and interests”. Freedom House this week issued a statement denying any such meeting and dismissing Mutasa’s claims as ‘fictitious’. Zambian president, Levi Mwanawasa, has said he was not aware of the incident. “The involvement of Zambian security personnel was obviously the result of relationships on the ground between the CIO and local operatives,” said one political observer. Late last year, The Zimbabwean broke the story of the government’s spy deal with South Africa, although there has been no news about a similar treaty with Zambia. It would appear, however, that more than one spy agency in the region has been tasked with spying on Zimbabweans outside the country on behalf of the CIO. “The fact that security forces in neighbouring countries are now the eyes and ears of Mugabe is a chilling warning to all Zimbabweans in the region that they should not expect to escape the long arm of the CIO,” said the observer. The Johannesburg-based Concerned Zimbabweans Abroad immediately issued a statement deploring the behaviour of the Zambian authorities. “All Zambians must come out in full force and condemn their authorities as this has brought shame to their nation and the region,” said the president, Jay Jay Sibanda.

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