By Tarisai Machakaire
After 23 years of enforcing law and order as the country’s top policeman, the tables have been turned against former police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri who is being accused of impounding five cars and later changing ownership into his name while still heading the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
A Harare businessman, Bigboy Pachirera, is claiming $2 968 000 from Chihuri and his wife for damages incurred consequent to loss of his property that includes a house in Highfield, three heavy duty trucks, a Jeep Cherokee and Mercedes Benz ML 350 Formatic.
Pachirera gave harrowing experiences of how he and his family were subjected to endless torture by members of the police Homicide Department after becoming Chihuri’s “target” in 2013.
“At first, I was accused of theft and put into police custody where I was held for seven days before being brought before a court. They would come (police) holding guns at me and force me into signing affidavits one of which gave Chihuri powers to take my Highfield house valued (at) $50 000,” Pachirera said.
“When I finally appeared in court, I was released because police had over-detained me but they did not stop hunting for me.”
According to Pachirera, in 2014 Chihuri allegedly formulated theft of motor vehicle charges against the businessman and held Pachirera’s wife hostage to induce him to release some of his cars.
“All the cars that they claimed to have been stolen I had personally bought them from Zimoco here in Zimbabwe. They all had records; my Mercedes Benz ML 350 Formatic and Jeep Cherokee and the three trucks I used in my road construction business,” claimed the businessman.
Pachirera is due to file summons claiming the return of property and damages of $2 968 000 from Chihuri and his wife arising from the alleged criminal activities.
In a letter dated December 5, 2017 delivered to Chihuri’s Shawasha residence and private business offices in Alex Park, Harare, Pachirera’s lawyers Mahuni Gidiri law chambers demanded the damages and property to be returned.
“On or about December 22, 2013 you caused the unlawful arrest of our client on allegations of theft. At all material times you knew very well that our client had not committed any offence against you…after his release from custody you ordered the police to harass our client and his family and engaged services of CID Frauds and Homicide to rob and steal our client’s property,” reads the letter.
“You ordered that our client’s several motor vehicles be taken to the Vehicle Theft Squad section for verification of whether or not they had been stolen. You and the police caused the change of name on all the motor vehicles into your name(s) and Kidsdale Enterprises a company owned by you.”
Pachirera claims that he lost business after heavy duty trucks that he used to earn a living were also held and transferred into Chihuri’s ownership.
“Since the time you unlawfully despoiled our client of his property, he has lost business and income in excess of $1, 4 million and also suffered personality infringement in the sum of $1 million.
“The value of the property that you deprived our client amounts to $470 000 and $50 000 for the Highfield home…he was earning $1 000 in rentals from that property and has lost income of $48 000.”
Pachirera’s lawyer Rungano Mahuni claims that no action was taken by Chihuri since receiving that letter and they have resorted to courts for reprieve.
The businessman told the Daily News that he could not speak openly about the issue fearing for his life because of threats that he received from the police over the issue.
“My residence was kept under police surveillance, each time I went out police would follow me. I got to a point where two armed police officers displaying guns roamed about 100 metres from my residence. I think it is because of God’s grace that I am alive today,” Pachirera said.
Chihuri was retired from the ZRP by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last month and was replaced by Godwin Matanga, albeit in an acting capacity.
The 64-year-old ex-combatant’s tenure was marred by widespread allegations of corruption and gross human rights violations, which were levelled against him and the police force.
Chihuri had been under intense pressure to quit the police force ever since the Zimbabwe Defence Forces carried out Operation Restore Legacy which led to the fall of former president Robert Mugabe who resigned on November 21 after Parliament had put in motion impeachment proceedings against him.
This was further highlighted by thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans who booed him at the inauguration of Mnangagwa on November 24 when he was about to take his oath of allegiance to the new president.
Chihuri was firstly booed as he arrived at the packed 60 000 capacity stadium.
His humiliation reached the peak when he read his loyalty pledge as people vented their anger and chanted “he should go, he should go, he should go”, while others rolled hands to signal a substitution, a sign that is normally used in football.
Efforts to get a comment from Chihuri were fruitless.
A lawyer believed to have represented Chihuri before denied having anything to do with him.
Contrary to the gratitude expressed to other members of the security sector, Chihuri, reportedly seen as part of a component of the security forces who wanted to defend Mugabe’s hegemony, had a torrid time maintaining composure as he struggled to read through his loyalty pledge.
Chihuri was mainly unpopular for the numerous roadblocks which were being mounted by the police which the public alleged were meant to extort motorists.
Apart from triggering a public outcry, the ubiquitous roadblocks drove away international tourists who complained of harassment and demands of bribes by cops manning them.
Chihuri received his military training at Mgagao in Tanzania and had been the longest-serving police chief after he assumed the helm of the force in 1993.
He took over the reins as acting commissioner in 1991 replacing Henry Mukurazhizha.
Two years later he eventually became substantive police commissioner in 1993.
In 2008, he was appointed commissioner-general when the post was created to replace that of commissioner. Daily News