Sunday, January 24, 2021

Alleged Zim CIO spy resurfaces, rubbishes Botswana gov’t denials

Alleged Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organization operative, Ezekiel Mpande, has once again resurfaced, this time to quash denials by the Botswana government that he was once arrested on suspicion of spying and that during his stay in Botswana he mingled with government officials and, at some point, met and conversed with President Ian Khama.

Mpande hit the headlines after Zimbabwean asylum seekers at Dukwi refugee camp revealed that they had aided Botswana police to apprehend a suspected spy with sketch maps of the refugee camp. They also revealed how the said spy, who had somehow risen to the leadership of the refugee community, was in possession of a sketch plan of the refugee camp, road maps of the camp and plans of some buildings in the camp. The alleged CIO spy is Ezekiel Mpande.

Speaking to The Sunday Standard from his hideout, Mpande denied ever being a spy for the CIO, adding that he has also been a victim of Mugabe’s brutal regime. Mpande claims that he was a victim of a Shona-Ndebele tribal scuffle at the Dukwi refugee camp and was also misinterpreted by a CID official.

While Dukwi police and Botswana government officials have repeatedly denied knowledge of anyone who was arrested on suspicions of being a CIO agent, Mpande revealed last week that he was fingered by some Zimbabwean asylum seekers at the camp, who held tribal grudges against him because his name sounded Ndebele, and accused him of spying for the Zimbabwean government. At the same time, Mpande said that he rubbed an overzealous CID officer the wrong way when he told him that while Botswana has done a lot for Zimbabwean asylum seekers, security at the Dukwi refugee camp leaves a lot to be desired.

Mpande narrated how he was repeatedly interrogated and briefly detained at the Francistown Maximum Prison before being transferred to the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants. It was during his stay at the Centre that he struck up a very cordial relationship with government officials. He revealed how a car was always availed to him whenever he wanted to visit the Dukwi refugee camp and how numerous high placed government officials aided him to get his case heard and pleaded for his release. He also claims to have met and conversed with President Khama, who allegedly assured him that he could call or write whenever he needed help. It was after this meeting that Mpande wrote first to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice Defense and Security and later to his Excellency, pleading his case.

“With the help of some government officials my letter to the President garnered tremendous results and I was almost immediately given my freedom,” he said. At the time, he was told to choose between immediate repatriation to Zimbabwe or asylum in South Africa, which would take a few weeks. To date Mpande says he regrets choosing to return to Zimbabwe immediately.

However, it was after his repatriation to Zimbabwe that tragedy struck. Things took a turn for the worse when, after the deportation, Zimbabwean security agents started harassing the refugees’ relatives in Zimbabwe. The refugees claim that their relatives back home were systematically persecuted and threatened while some of them disappeared mysteriously. To the refugees, the pattern of harassment suggests that Mpande may have used the information he gathered in Dukwi to finger their relatives for harassment.

However, Mpande maintains his innocence and insists that he was never an operative for the Zimbabwean government. He reveals how the Zimbabwean government has also been looking for him after he was accused of being a spy for the British government.

Mpande’s revelations come in the wake of denials by officers from Dukwi refugee camp and the Ministry of Justice Defense and Security, who have repeatedly denied any knowledge of any individual who was arrested, and later deported, on suspicions of spying.

Mpande‘s case has revealed how vulnerable the Botswana government and Dukwi refugee camp are to espionage attacks. Dukwi refugees have for a long time been losing sleep over the slightest hint of a security lapse. Most have in the past expressed fear and raised complaints that their lives and those of relatives back in Zimbabwe may be in danger.

Mpande’s claim that he angered a police official when he exposed the lax security at the camp rhymes with the refugees’ concerns that the camp does not have a perimeter fence and anyone can enter the camp from all angles at any time of the day or night. Refugees are also worried that while there is a police station within the camp, security is so lax that there is no monitoring of who enters the camp at any time of the day.

The refugees have also reported sightings of mysterious off road vehicles parked at the camp at night which they say drive away as soon as they emerge from their tents. The said vehicles reportedly enter the camp from the back roads ignoring the designated entrance that passes by the police station. The refugees say that the police only started patrolling the camp after they raised concerns about the absence of the perimeter fence and reported seeing the mysterious vehicles.

CIO agents who have reportedly infiltrated Botswana are believed to be behind recent allegations that Botswana is providing military training to Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) agents. Zimbabwe at some point sent a team of investigators to Botswana to probe an alleged plot of banditry involving Botswana authorities and opposition MDC activists. The investigation into claimed acts of destabilization has so far failed to raise any evidence. Zimbabwean Foreign Affairs permanent secretary, Joey Bimha, including other Foreign Affairs officials and state security officers, led the investigation team. It is understood that a group of MDC activists were in the past arrested and allegedly coerced to admit training and recorded in the process in a bid to create evidence for the trumped-up charges. To date the findings of the SADC investigations into Zimbabwe’s allegations have not been released.

Government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay could not comment on Mpande’s claims at the time of going to press.

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