In one of the most closely guarded secrets the state is planning to bring to book people who shot former Gweru Mayor and national organising secretary of the Zimbabwe Unity Movement, Patrick Kombayi. Apparently all those being investigated are members of the Central Intelligence Organisation who were based in Gweru.
The cat nearly accidentally came out of the bag when the names of the alleged culprits led by former CIO chief in Gweru Elias Kanengoni, appeared on the Regional Court roll in mid-May. The alleged culprits were to appear on initial remand on charges of attempted murder.
Kanengoni, who is to be charged with three or four, others never came to court. Instead, the case was discussed in chambers where the State said it was holding on to the case because one of the key accused, who was only referred to as Chabuka, who is reported to have been a driver with the CIO, was still at large.
News hounds could have been put off by the fact that the key State witness on the court roll was named as Patrick Kombani instead of Kombayi. This could therefore have wiped out their curiosity as the name Kombayi itself generates media interest.
While the case is to be heard at the Regional Court it is being handled directly by the Attorney-General’s office. All the documents relating to the case are being handled by a prosecutor at the High Court, Bulawayo, who is solely responsible for the safe keeping of these documents.
The prosecutor is understood to be under orders to make sure nothing disappears otherwise he is accountable because some papers relating to the case are reported to have gone missing when the docket was still in Harare and it was difficult to pinpoint where the problem lay.
It is understood that the State is trying to make sure they have a tight case before bringing it to court. They are afraid to make hasty decisions in case the press learns about the impending case as has happened in the cases of Rashiwe Guzha, Captain Edwin Nleya, and Lieutenant Shepherd Chisango. All these cases were splashed in the press before police investigations started.
CIO deputy director, Eddison Shirihuru, Collen Chingura Ndangariro and Cleopus Budiyo Gwinyai had charges against them in connection with the disappearance of Rashiwe Guzha in 1990 withdrawn before plea because of lack of evidence to prosecute. This is despite the fact that police had 53 witnesses. Those responsible for the deaths off Capt. Nleya and Lt. Chisango, both army officers who wanted to expose smuggling by senior army officers, have not been brought to book yet.
Kombayi was shot and seriously wounded on March 24, 1990 just three days before the general elections where he was contesting the Gweru urban seat against vice-President Muzenda. There have been conflicting stories about the shooting with ZANU-PF and even President Mugabe accusing Kombayi of provoking the violence.
“Police reports said that Cde Kombayi followed Cde Muzenda’s truck and shot the front tyres then threw inflammable materials into the car setting it ablaze” President Mugabe said.
ZUM youths and Kombayi’s employees said the violence was sparked by ZANU-PF youths who drove to Kombayi’s shop in Ridgemont. They set fire to the shop, fired some shots and allegedly burnt Muzenda’s truck with the intention of making it look as if it had been done by ZUM youths.
Kombayi, they said, only came to the shop after it had been set ablaze and although police had been summoned several times earlier they arrived at the same time with Kombayi.
Since the ZUM youths were greatly outnumbered they had been beaten up severely and had been loaded into Kombayi’s truck to be taken to hospital. After putting off the fire in the shop, Kombayi is reported to have driven off towards Gweru Hospital to check on the wounded but on arrival at the Gweru River Bridge, just before entering the city centre, Kombayi is reported to have spotted his truck parked in the wrong lane and decided to investigate. He made a U-turn but as he got out of his car he came under heavy fire and was shot several times before being taken to hospital.
At the hospital, Kombayi was kept under police guard and the press was barred from talking to him. Police insisted that anyone who wanted to visit Kombayi had to give them his or her name, his or her relationship to Kombayi and then they would go and consult Kombayi who would then say if he wanted to see that person or not. The same applied when he was transferred to Bulawayo Central hospital where he stayed for some weeks before going to the United Kingdom where he received specialist treatment that cost him about 325 000 pounds.
Kombayi has, however, always insisted he knew who shot him and has always named Elias Kanengoni as the chief culprit. He maintained that police were barring him from talking with the press because they were afraid he would tell the truth. Police on the other hand claimed they were protecting Kombayi for his own safety. He was not under arrest.
Kombayi also insisted he had never asked for police protection: “In fact, they do not want me to talk to anyone because they fear I will tell the truth about what happened . They have brutality to protect while I have nothing to protect or hide,” he told a reporter who was allowed to see him at Bulawayo Central Hospital.
Despite these restrictions other reporters had managed to sneak in to see Kombayi both in Gweru and in Bulawayo. A Moto reporter who saw him at Gweru Hospital quotes Kombayi as saying: “I recognised at least two. I asked one why he was killing me and he said ‘We want a one-party sate. We do not want anyone contesting our vice President.'”
In Bulawayo he told a reporter : “Seven shots from an AK rifle at close range, just about 120 metres away, is not a joke.”
In a message he gave to Raphel Hamadziripi, Wilson Nharingo and Joseph Dendere, all members of ZUM (at the time) who had seen him in hospital before he was allowed he was allowed to see any members of the press, Kombayi said he was shot by a group of five while he was trying to get out of his car. The group was led by Elias Kanengoni, who was head of the CIO in Gweru. He said he was surprised at the versions of events appearing in the press.
Kombayi also said he was greatly disturbed by this turn of events because he believed the ZANU -PF leadership, particularly vice President Muzenda, could have done anything else to him. Pointing a gun at him was the last thing he expected because he had looked after Muzenda both in Zambia and Mozambique. Even after independence, he claimed, he had helped Muzenda financially.
Kombayi said political differences should not create a culture in which people killed one another. He also said it was unfortunate that he got injured in Mozambique in 1975 while looking for President Mugabe and Edgar Tekere who had been restricted at Quilimane by President Samora Machel. During that sojourn he was injured in a car accident on his right leg. Now it was the left leg, which he relied on, that had been injured in the Gweru shooting.
He said his private parts had been totally shattered and he believed he could not be a man again. He said he wanted to put the record straight because it was impossible to tell the world the truth because of the police guard outside his ward.
Ironically, although police had always insisted that they were guarding Kombayi for his own protection when he left for the United Kingdom for further treatment, the officer-in-charge and the constable who was guarding him that day were charged for letting him go.
Inspector Esford Munzira was charged under Police Act for not performing his duties in a proper manner because he had not checked with his superiors whether they had authorised Kombayi’s departure from hospital. He was fined $75.
The conviction and sentence were, however, quashed when he appealed. The State conceded that it did not appear from the record that at the time of his hospitalisation Kombayi had been arrested or charged in connection with any offence. There was no record of any warrant of arrest or authority to detain him even four months after he had left. As such the judge said Munzira could not be convicted of neglecting to perform or improper performance of a duty which he did not exist even if he was not aware of this.
Martin Haripo, the officer who actually let Kombayi go, said he did not even know the purpose of his guard at the hospital. He thought his duty was to protect the life of Kombayi and was surprised when he was asked to explain why he had allowed Kombayi to go two days later although he reported Kombayi’s departure on the very day he left.
Haripo was charged under the Police Act as well and sentenced to 10 days imprisonment for releasing “the accused Patrick Kombayi, without proper authority form Bulawayo Central Hospital on the 28th April 1990 and thus the said Kombayi was able to effect and make good his escape from lawful custody.”
On review, only done in April this year long after Haripo had served his sentence, the judge said like in the case of Munzira , Haripo had no case to answer. He quashed the conviction so that Haripo could have a clean slate.