Freed “coup plotter’ interview

The group spent four gruelling years in remand prison as the regime ignored several bail orders, but two weeks ago six of them were acquitted and freed by the High Court. On Behind the Headlines SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma speaks to one of the alleged coup plotters, Patson Mupfure.

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Interview broadcast 06 June 2011

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Lance Guma: Hallo Zimbabwe and thank you for joining us on Behind the Headlines. Seven men were arrested in May 2007 on treason charges for allegedly trying topple Robert Mugabe and replace him with Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. The group spent four grueling years in remand prison as several bail orders were ignored by the regime.

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Six out of the seven men were eventually released from remand but Albert Matapo the alleged mastermind of the alleged coup plot is still in custody. He’s facing another charge of trying to escape from jail. This week on Behind the Headlines we speak to one of the alleged coup plotters, Patson Mupfure. Mr. Mupfure thank you for joining us on the programme.

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Patson Mupfure: Thank you very much.

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Guma: Right let’s go back into the past, the day you were arrested in May 2007 – what happened?

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Mupfure: Oh yes thank you. I vividly remember every detail what happened from 29 May 2007 around 2 ‘o clock in the afternoon. We were just coming from lunch and we, all of a sudden there was some chaos. One Edison Sithole, sorry not Edison Sithole, one Edison Sinyoro a CIO operative in, with a group of 14 men, they got into our office, they were armed with pistols and AK47 rifles, all of them and a video camera, demanding to search us alleging that we were dealing in foreign currency.

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However we didn’t deal in any foreign currency, we were running a travel agency, we were just processing some visas for people, processing their travel arrangements etcetera, etcetera. So knowing that we were not involved in any criminal activity, we just let them search us and they didn’t get anything. In fact every Zimbabwe dollar that we had, the computers that we had in our offices, the laptops that we had, they were all confiscated by this gentleman by this gentleman Edison Sinyoro and his people.

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So they blindfolded us and took us to a certain place that we didn’t know; only now that we realise its called Kabrits Barracks where some military intelligence barracks where they do the torturing of people. They tortured us for the next three days. We were ruthlessly tortured. Until now I’m still bearing some wounds which are not healing, they are of a permanent nature from those tortures.

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Guma: During that time, what were they accusing you of doing? Did they immediately tell you why they had arrested you?

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Mupfure: They were alleging that we, the six of us, were attempting, or rather we were planning a coup, we were plotting a coup, taking over the country by some means which are not (inaudible), which are not voting, some military means. Unfortunately among us there was not even a soldier, there was one young man who had just come to our office to see somebody, his name is Shingi, we have had to spend four years together because he was said to be a soldier. Yes he trained to be a soldier but he was only a footballer with some team, Black Rhinos.

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So we would ask them how can you conduct a coup when we don’t have even a pistol in our office, we don’t have any military men among us? So then they would torture us to say – tell us who is behind your coup plotting. So we didn’t know anything about that. Apparently what we only intended to do after realising that people in Zimbabwe are not voting, we thought we would capitalize on the number of people who are not voting, we would entice them one way or another to get them to vote so we were intending to register a party.

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Actually I was still working on the party manifesto and constitution when we were arrested. We had not yet registered the party, I was still working on the finer details of the requirements of party registration. So when they went through the computers, all they could find was information relating to formation of a political party, the United Democratic Front, the UDF and nothing to do with coup plotting.

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So their informer, one Owen Bafana could have told them the truth that there’s a party being formed there and they didn’t want any new party formed because they were claiming they are having enough problems with MDC so how could another party come to add some problems that they were having already. So we were ruthlessly tortured.

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Guma: Where did they take you, they tortured you, in terms of the actual court process, you being taken to remand, how did that come about, what happened?

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Mupfure: After three days of torture in the Kabrita Barracks they then took us to the Law & Order section of the police at Harare Central Police Station. That was on the third day. Then a statement were reported to the police station in the presence of our lawyers. Our lawyers had to be admitted after a day, they were refused access to us but on the second day at the police station they then agreed to have our lawyers which was, to witness, what do you call it, the statements being made.

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So then the time we went to court, the charges were saying we were working in cahoots with a certain minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa to overthrow the government and make Mnangagwa as president out of Albert Matapo as Prime Minister. However we were surprised that Mnangagwa was never called in to testify, was never called in to present a statement and in fact among the six of us, no-one even knew Mnangagwa, we only knew that he was a minister of something, something but we didn’t know him in person.

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So from about June 4th we were coming to court on a fortnightly basis and nothing happened until September when we applied for a remand refusal because we weren’t having our trial started. The remand refusal was refused but no reason was ever proffered to us that our application was refused for that reason and that reason.  They just said your application has been thrown out and that was that.

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So we were in remand prison, in fact we were not in remand prison, we were in the Chikurubi Maximum Prison, a prison for convicted hardcore criminals – armed robberies, rapists, stock theft  criminals so these people were the ones we were living with for the last four full years. It was not comfortable at all. The Prison Service could not afford to dress the inmates, could not afford to feed the inmates. So many people died and we witnessed them, people dying in 2008 and 2009 until the Red Cross then came and donated until today the beans and the cooking ….that they are using.

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Guma: Throughout this four year ordeal we were told you were granted bail several times but this was just ignored.

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Mupfure: Yes, the judges would grant, around, let me think of the date, around 2008 we made a constitutional application that the charges that they were charging us with were unconstitutional as they don’t appear in the Roman Dutch law and the High Court agreed to take the matter to the constitutional court, they referred the matter to the constitutional court. But up until now, the judgement of the constitutional court of our constitutional application, the judgement was said to have been withheld sine die, to reflect that they were not going to give us that judgement and they haven’t given us that judgement until today and we are saying it is a constitutional court which is failing to give the people their judgement.

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So what has been happening until now, very recently, two weeks ago, a judgement that was made in July for us to be released because the state failed to try its case for three years, Mr. Justice Musakwa would eventually throw out the matter because the state failed to prosecute. So instead of them releasing us to our homes they took us for re-indictment which is unlawful, there’s no procedure of re-indictment in the papers, in the books of law.

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So that’s what they did exactly and they failed to release us until this year May, we were almost a year in unlawful custody because we had already been released. So several times this would happen, a judgement could be made today but it was not adhered to, and (inaudible) they would just release you after having, they had to go through a process of, I don’t know, to consult other security agents to say can we release these people, can these people be released before the court would had made their decisions, the prison officials couldn’t release you before consulting other security agents. So that’s the scenario at the prison institution.

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Guma: Now we understand one of your co-accused in fact they say he’s the ring leader, Albert Matapo, he’s still in custody, he wasn’t released along with the six of you. We’re told he’s facing another charge of trying to escape from jail. Now is that true? Did he try to escape from jail or what’s the situation with him?

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Mupfure: The situation at Chikurubi is, we, the six of us lived in different sections so this event is said to have happened in F section. In F section Albert Matapo was living there with other inmates that are not involved with our initial case so we don’t know what happened because for the past four years we were never allowed to meet, we never met, we only met the time we came to court but it could be a trumped up charge I don’t know because when we tried to ask him he was saying he never did it, some prison officer did it and he was not involved.

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So I cannot really comment on that one because, in fact the matter is before the court. I think they are going to the court tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. So but what we know is, from experience, because we have had a similar charge placed on us and it was thrown out on 31 January to say we were attempting to escape. We don’t plan to escape at Chikurubi because there’s no way we can conduct a meeting to plan such a thing.

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So the same applies to what the charges that they’ve placed on him today, he could never plan, he could never plan an escape because how can one escape from a prison of that nature? And in fact the bags of hardware were found outside so somebody from outside could have done it, how do we know and somebody inside how could a bag of hardware get inside the jail? So still there are too many questions to be answered than the answers available.

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Guma: And just finally Mr. Mupfure, now that you are out what do you intend to do? Four years in prison for nothing – do you intend to sue, do you intend to claim compensation? What are you planning?

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Mupfure: You see that is the challenge we are facing today. Remember we have got a bill, a bill of legal fees to be paid in excess of maybe almost a million and our children, my two boys have been dropped out of school, out of boarding school and the family is so down, for years they’ve never experienced a holiday, they’ve been used to a holiday and there’s been permanent damages to our bodies, especially myself and Nyasha.

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They’ve had permanent damages and we are suffering and there’s also the psychological suffering we are experiencing. So I was just having a meeting with the lawyer, in fact I was supposed to meet the lawyers this afternoon but he is occupied elsewhere, we are yet to be advised by the lawyers Mr. (Charles) Hwarara.

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Guma: Well Zimbabwe, that’s Patson Mupfure one of the alleged coup plotters who was eventually released after spending four grueling years in remand prison, charged with of course, trying to topple Robert Mugabe and replace him with Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mr. Mupfure thank you so much for your time here on Behind the Headlines.

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Mupfure: Thank you very much; you are welcome, thank you.

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To listen to the interview:

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http://swradioafrica.streamuk.com/swradioafrica_archive/bth060611.wma

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