CIO killer granted UK asylum named
By Guthrie Munyuki
HARARE – Zanu PF’s claims that the security sector is not involved in politics are now dead in the water following the confession in a United Kingdom court by a former intelligence officer who admitted to torturing and killing MDC supporters.
In his chilling confession, Phillip Machemedze, who joined the dreaded spy agency in 1996, told the Immigration and Asylum and First-tier Tribunal in Wales last week how he hunted down MDC supporters, tortured them and murdered some of them in cold blood between 1999 and 2000.
The former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operative also admitted candidly that some of the acts of torture that they meted to President Robert Mugabe’s opponents were too gruesome to recount in court. The Daily News is in possession of the official court papers that provide these gory details.
Machemedze’s confession come at a time that Zimbabweans, Sadc and South African President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team are seized with the country’s outstanding Global Political Agreement (GPA) issues – prominent among which is security sector reforms.
The MDC and civil society groups have called for security sector reforms as one of the key pre-conditions needed to get to free and fair polls either next year or in 2013.
Analysts canvassed by the Daily News yesterday said Machemedze’s claims served to strengthen calls for reforms in the sector, the real power behind Mugabe and Zanu PF’s reign.
South African-based political analyst Shepherd Mntungwa said it was now very clear that any claims that securocrats were not involved in politics were “hogwash”.
“While Machemedze’s confession is galling, he has done this country a favour by admitting openly that the CIO and other security structures are heavily involved in our politics. This should put a rest to the hogwash that is being banded about by Zanu PF that the security sector is apolitical.
“And to be honest, this is hardly surprising given that securocrats have openly said many times that they will never salute (Prime Minister Morgan) Tsvangirai. If our politicians were sane, they would now stop wasting Sadc’s time about this issue and work to rectify the issues,” he said.
Meanwhile, contributing to the raging debate around Machemedze getting asylum in the UK, Professor Lovemore Madhuku said the decision was apolitical.
“I would have had a problem with it had it been taken by a British politician. We support the decisions of the courts. We can’t always have our way. It doesn’t mean that decisions are always going to be pleasant. Even the worst killers have rights,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), who have been heavily involved in the documentation of rights violations in the country and assisting victims of political violence said: “It’s quite disappointing that such a decision can be made in favour of someone who admits to torture. The court’s decision is questionable because torture is an international crime which can be prosecuted anywhere”.
“The decision to grant him asylum is disappointing in that it sends the message that you can violate human rights and be able to negotiate protection which is not usually extended to the victim. I hope human rights groups should be able to do something and look seriously into this issue,” said ZLHR director, Irene Petras.
Among his many assignments for the CIO, Machemedze worked as a bodyguard to Enos Chikowore, after completing his training by the Chinese and war veterans in 1996.
He also attended a four-month course at the Management Bereal department in Harare, delivered by the Russian spy outfit KGB which included tuition on surveillance techniques. Before rallies he would go to the houses of local opposition figures and detain them without trial.
“The torture of people began in 1998 but intensified in 1999 when the MDC was formed. In early 1999 the appellant tortured a person by hitting their jaw with pliers and pulling out a tooth.
“In 1999 he went to the house of an MDC supporter who was forced to sit naked in front of his daughters and told him that if he did not provide information he would be forced to have sex with the daughters,” read the former CIO’s confession sheet which was lodged in the court to support his case for asylum.
Machemedze said in 2000 he went to Thornhill farm on the outskirts of Harare when the CIO heard a rumour that a Mr Thornhill was financially supporting the MDC. The former intelligence operative admitted to electrocuting Thornhill who was slapped, beaten and punched during torture to the extent that he became unconscious.
In February 2000, he handed his notice but his senior manager orally rejected his resignation. He told the court that he delayed his asylum claim because he feared he would be extradited to Zimbabwe because of his CIO role.
Justice David Archer of the First Tier Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber allowed Machemedze and his wife’s appeals in a judgement delivered on May 4, 2011. Daily News