Mphoko flees poisonous injection

Mphoko flees poisonous injection
Published: 19 August 2019 (384 Views)
Zimbabwe's former vice president on Monday fled from anti-corruption after being tipped off that if he is detained, he will be injected with a poisonous substance.

Phelekezela Mphoko, 79, who served under long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, was due at the police in Bulawayo, the country's second city, to record a statement on the allegations.

But he drove off as soon as officials from the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) approached his car.

"We had agreed to meet at the police post at the magistrate's court to record a warned-and- cautioned statement and have his fingerprints taken but when our officials approached his car, he drove away at high speed," ZACC spokesperson John Makamure told AFP.

"He is now a fugitive from justice," the spokesperson said, facing accusations of ordering the release from police custody of a chief executive officer and a non-executive director of the state-run roads authority.

Mphoko was, along with current president Emmerson Mnangagwa, one of two vice presidents at the time of the ouster by the military of Mugabe in November 2017.

He left the country as the coup unfolded but later returned.

An attempt to arrest him by ZACC last week was blocked by his family.

ZACC tweeted Friday that it was "sad" that Mphoko had "refused to collaborate with the enforcement officers and unfortunate that he and those around him believe that they are above the law".

Mphoko's lawyer Zibusiso Ncube told the Voice of America's Studio 7 that he met ZACC officials early Monday and they agreed that Mphoko would present himself to court. Prosecutors were not going to oppose bail, they had agreed.

But he said when they arrived outside court, he was approached by ZACC officers he had met earlier informing him that there had been a change of plan, and Mphoko was now expected to present himself at the Bulawayo Central Police Station to sign his "warned and cautioned" statement.

"That was a dramatic shift," Ncube said. "One does not need to go to a police station to sign a warned and cautioned statement. The client was already concerned, he fears that these people want to kill him.

"I must emphasise that the client has no fear of going to court. We are prepared to have a trial if we are given the charge sheet, even tomorrow we are ready. We told ZACC we are ready. If it's justice they really seek, we told them let's get in court and conduct the trial. All they need to do is summon us and say your trial starts on such-such a day and we will be there, whether in Harare or Bulawayo.

"The client fears that if he leaves court, and he is in cells – whether prison cells, court cells or police cells – they will inject him with poison. That's his fear."

Ncube said he had written to ZACC chair Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo stating that Mphoko was not afraid of appearing in court or assisting investigations, since he had already given his statement.

"I told her that the change of goal-posts after our earlier agreement does not inspire confidence. It only heightens Mr Mphoko's fears of foul play," Ncube added.

"I told the ZACC chair that Mphoko is not fleeing the court's jurisdiction, but he wants security."

Ncube said the poison fears stemmed from information that Mphoko received from intelligence sources.

"He was informed that when the ZACC officers were leaving Harare, they were instructed to pick up a bag of potatoes, and use that bag of potatoes. That's what the client has told me," Ncube said.

He is the second high ranking member of the ruling Zanu-PF party under probe by the recently reconstituted ZACC.

Prisca Mupfumira, who was fired as tourism minister earlier this month, became in July the first high profile official to be arrested and detained for alleged graft. She is still in remand prison after being denied bail.

- afp

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