State drops espionage charges against Africom

The three telecoms executives accused of espionage appeared at Harare magistrates court on Wednesday, to apply for refusal of further remand, but walked out free men after the State dropped espionage charges against them.

Simba Mangwende and Farai Rwodzi of Africom Holdings, and Oliver Chiku from Global Satellite Systems, were arrested last month and accused of conniving to communicate official secrets from government ministries to the United States, Canada and Afghanistan.

But from the beginning there were suspicions something else was at play, and SW Radio Africa later received information that the case centered around Rwodzi, who was a close business associate to the late General Solomon Mujuru.

The trio had been out on bail and the courts had delayed hearing their application for refusal of further remand twice. On Wednesday a representative from the Attorney-General’s office unexpectedly said the State had decided to withdraw charges before plea.

Lesser charges that they set up satellite equipment, without permission from the proper authorities, remain but these charges face a small fine, as opposed to the 25 years they faced for espionage.

Strict bail conditions imposed on all three executives two weeks ago were removed immediately. Mangwende, Rwodzi and Chiku were also given their passports back, with no explanation given for the sudden change. This confirmed initial suspicions that the charges held no weight.

Lawyer Ucaca Phulu, who has represented many clients whose cases were later dropped by the State, explained that the police in Zimbabwe have been abusing the law, “arresting to investigate instead of investigating to arrest”.

Phulu said victims can sue for wrongful arrest and recovery of damages, but the law says State property cannot be attached and the State does not pay out damages. The police know this and have used it to develop a culture of impunity.

Regarding Africom, SW Radio Africa had received information from a source close to the Mujuru faction, who alleged that the espionage case against Rwodzi was engineered by members of another ZANU PF faction led by Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The source said Rwodzi ran the late Mujuru’s business empire and is so close to Vice President Joice Mujuru that he calls her “mainini”, meaning auntie. Rwodzi was allegedly targeted as a signal to Joice Mujuru that her faction no longer had the upper hand. It’s being suggested the death of her husband in a mysterious fire was the first and very clear signal. – SW Radio Africa

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