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Why the US imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe’s state security minister Owen Ncube

Within hours of the “anti-sanctions march” organised by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF party and government on Friday, United States president Donald Trump responded immediately by adding State Security Minister Owen ‘Mudha’ Ncube to the sanctions list.

In this article Nehanda Radio explores why Ncube was placed on the ‘targeted’ sanctions list.

Owen Ncube
State Security Minister Owen Ncube

The Trump administration accuses Ncube of being involved in the state-sponsored violence on civilians that saw several people being shot dead by soldiers, while many others sustained injuries from beatings and other forms of brutalisation by the military and other suspected state agents.

Ncube, a former Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister and Gokwe-Kana MP, is accused of leading a violent party militia calling itself “Al Shabab” in Kwekwe. There was general shock and consternation when he sworn in as Minister of State for National Security in the President’s Office.

In September 2012, then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (now late) accused the then Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa of bankrolling “Al Shabab” in Kwekwe.

When Mnangagwa lost the Kwekwe Central parliamentary seat to MDC-T candidate Blessing Chebundo, Ncube allegedly mobilised a gang of thugs that burnt down Chebundo’s house. Ncube is also accused of being a key member of Mnangagwa’s gold mafia in the Midlands.

His appointment was slammed by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who said “the Ministry of State Security is simply the Ministry of Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and Political Violence. Who would have imagined a Mnangagwa government without that? It is always responsible for extra-legal activities, disappearances and human rights abuses.”

A statement by Dr Nkululeko Sibanda, a spokesman for MDC president Nelson Chamisa said “Mnangagwa could not resist his speciality – you cannot have a mafia regime that does not have an enforcer wing. He waited until everyone had forgotten about the cabinet then he dumps this Ministry, midweek, overshadowing the appointment with the Glen View copy-cat stunt.

“He has now realised that he is an illegitimate President, an Emperor without clothes, who now can no longer pretend to be a democrat, but rely on force and violence. After the MDC MPs exposed his illegitimacy he has decided that he must recreate the old Ministry of Gukurahundi. It has taken so short for the pretention to die out.

“There is no surprise here, this is Mugabe 2.0 and we always knew this, the choice of Owen Ncube is no surprise either. His relationship with violence is second to none and that alone exposes the illegitimate President’s real agenda. One can only imagine the German government bringing back the Gestapo Ministry but that will never happen,” Dr Sibanda added. 

In November 2017 when Mnangagwa had fired from both government and the ruling party, Ncube’s Al Shabab group went on a rampage indiscriminately attacking commuter omnibus crews and residents with machetes demanding the reinstatement of protection fees.

Then Zanu PF Midlands provincial commissar Makhosini Hlongwane, visited one of the victims at Kwekwe General Hospital and said: 

“We have for too long allowed Kwekwe to be the citadel of violence majoring in brute force, majoring in thugocracy, majoring in subduction and constricting the political economy of the entire Midlands province.“

“Kwekwe is a horror zone where maiming and murder is the order of the day. Kwekwe General Hospital receives on average three patients per day, who are victims of gory attacks using pangas and machetes. 

“We have in 2017 the misfortune of having people that celebrate al Shabaab by adopting the name of the al-Shabaab terror group and they met out violence with wanton abundance in true terror style. 

“As the Midlands province, we condemn in the strongest terms all sorts and forms of violence being perpetrated in Kwekwe,” Hlongwane said at the time.

Only this month, Ncube was implicated in the often violent Mazowe illegal mining activities that have seen youth gangs popularly known as MaShurugwi, engage in machete wars over gold that have many people dead or injured.

Villagers from Mazowe implicated Ncube, claiming the violent artisanal miners had been boasting that they were linked to the minister and were untouchable.

While a team of ministers was locked in a meeting during a tour this month, some irate villagers outside claimed the MaShurugwi had been bragging of their links to Ncube, who is also accused of running similar gangs in the Midlands province, in Mnangagwa’s backyard.

“We told the ministers that all the chaos in this province is being fuelled by top ranking people linked to the machete-wielding artisanal miners,” one Zanu PF youth told the NewsDay paper.

“The panners are terrorising the province, raping, robbing and murdering people. As Zanu PF youth, we retaliated last month and the chaos resulted in the burning of two commuter omnibuses which wanted to transport the MaShurugwi out of the province.”

Information permanent secretary Nick Mangwana, who was also part of the inter-ministerial team, without confirming or denying the villagers’ claims, said most Zimbabweans now have a pernicious social practice of excessive use of authoritative names for both criminal and patronage purposes.

“But that does not mean the person doing the name-dropping would have been sent by the person they claim to be their principal. It is tragic that we are in this place where some are taken by such simple con jobs,” Mangwana said.

“The use of a name of someone in a position of influence seems to have the effect of immobilising and disempowering the victim. The police should not be fazed by the use of the senior official’s name. This is why we have the trendy charge of ‘abuse of public office’ against those who misuse their positions of public trust for personal gain.” Nehanda Radio

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