CIO infighting exposed

Cracks are continuing to show in President Robert Mugabe’s notorious Central Information Organisation as the trial of the organisation’s former boss, Lovemore Mukandi, started this week.

Mukandi, who is facing fraud charges, was arrested in September but later released when he said the warrant for his arrest was not legal. However, the former CIO boss was summoned to appear at the Harare Magistrate Court for trial this week and rumour has it that the decision is tied to the Zanu (PF) battle for succession.

Mukandi is allegedly backed by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa who wants him to support his faction in battle for the presidency.

Dodgy dealings

According to the state, in 1996 Mukandi was responsible for supervising the construction of houses for the CIO, but has been accused of dodgy dealings in the tender procedures. It is alleged that he defrauded the CIO of $1.6 million Zimbabwean dollars which he used to buy property and fancy cars.

Mukandi was replaced by the current director-general Happyton Bonyongwe who is the first respondent in this case.

Two suspended senior CIO operatives, who were charged alongside Mukandi, have challenged their dismissal in court. The pair claims that they were illegally suspended and should be reinstated immediately.

CIO chief administration officer, David Nyabando, and chief transport officer, Ricky Manwere, were suspended in 1998 over a $17 million Zimbabwean dollar fraud scam. The cash that the pair allegedly stole was, according to the CIO, meant for the construction of ‘safe houses’. The two officers have insisted that the houses were built and said they were suspended on dubious grounds.

Unlawful suspension

Following their suspension, the CIO failed to call the officers for a hearing. Nyabano and Manwere approached the High Court in 2005 seeking a declaratory order that their suspension from duty was unlawful, null and void and that the inordinately long time it had taken authorities to hear their case breached provisions of section 18(9) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which states that: “Every person is entitled to be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time”.

The men have also asked that they be re-instated to their posts and paid all salaries and benefits due to them with effect from the date of suspension.

In 2005, the CIO served the two officers with a convening order which stated that a board of inquiry had been set up to look into their allegations. However, the hearing never took place.

The two officers’ lawyer wrote to the CIO bosses again on June 9, 2006 to seek clarity on the matter and was advised that the disciplinary hearing would now take place on July 6, 2006.

At that hearing, the CIO board of inquiry, headed by the director of administration, said that the dismissal of the two officers was not illegal and postponed the hearing so that the two officers could make an application to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, sitting as a constitutional court, concurred that the CIO was not regulated by any Zimbabwean law.

“It is, therefore, clear beyond any doubt that the applicants, being members of the CIO, were not part of the Public Service and were not governed by the Act and the Regulations,” says the October 15, 2007 Supreme Court ruling. “Accordingly, the disciplinary procedure set out in the regulations did not apply to them.”

Another inquiry

Despite the ruling, the CIO, on January 12, 2009, said that there would be another disciplinary board of inquiry on February 5, 2009. The two officers once again appealed to the court to interdict the spy agency.

On October 26, 2010, the two officers approached the High Court seeking a final draft order to be re-instated, saying their suspension was null and void and that the CIO was not entitled to hold any inquiry into the alleged acts of misconduct.

The CIO director-general, Bonyongwe, delegated his deputy Mernard Muzariri, to sign the opposing affidavit.

The lawyer representing the officers then threatened the Civil Division of the AG’s Office that the CIO affidavit created a basis for filing criminal charges against what they said was “forging or misrepresentation of the affidavit”.

The AG’s office wrote to the CIO on 13 December, 2010, to pursue an out of court settlement. However, instead of settling the matter out of court, the CIO filed another set of opposing papers to the High Court with Muzariri as the deponent, but without his signature. Again, the CIO was told that their documents contained forged signatures. Following the death of Muzariri, the organisation submitted an application asking for time to file a third set of opposing papers.

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