Former Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere told the court yesterday that he skipped the country’s border and sought refuge in Mozambique after learning that the junta wanted to execute him during “Operation Restore Legacy”.
This was revealed during the opening of Kasukuwere’s trial on charges of contravening section 24 (1) of the Immigrations Act, which prohibits departing from Zimbabwe at any place other than a port of exit.
The former Local Government minister was represented by top Harare lawyer, Jonathan Samukange.
He denied the charges saying his conduct was not intentional.
Samukange revealed in court that the ex-Cabinet minister was used to living a luxurious life in Zimbabwe, but risked all that by crossing the jungles of Mozambique and encountering snakes because he wanted to save his life.
“No one wants to die and he did the right thing to save his life when he was targeted by AK rifles,” Samukange said.
“The accused person had always been resident in Zimbabwe until November 15 when he was attacked at his house but survived the bullets but the holes are still present on the building.
“The attackers were not robbers but targeted him personally and as such he became a refugee in compliance with section 3 (1) (c) of the Refugee Act and section 24 (1) (b) of the Immigrations Act.”
The State’s only witness, Godfrey Kondo, a principal Immigration officer, said Kasukuwere could not have sought refuge because his passport reflected that he entered South Africa as a tourist during the same period he alleged to be in Mozambique.
The court heard that Kasukuwere’s diplomatic passport had a record showing he left the country on October 29, 2017 and returned on November 3, 2017.
Curiously, it has another record, which shows that he entered Zimbabwe on May 22 this year but with no corresponding endorsement to the last record of entry to show he was authorised to leave the country.
Kondo said according to section 12 of the Immigration Act, “every person should present him/herself before an officer and produce a valid document and appropriate endorsement made in the passport”.
“Refuge is sought on well-founded fear of persecution, disturbances that affect part or whole of a country and in particular reference to public order and one needs to avail him/herself to an authorised officer before a committee sits to decide and then registration and recognition as a refugee,” Kondo said.
“There was no threat to public order because it was actually civilians who were involved. His passport shows that most of the countries he visited during that period he was actually a tourist.”
However, Samukange moved for discharge of his client at the close of the State case, arguing essential elements had not been proved to sustain a conviction.
“The evidence by State’s witness has not been corroborated by anyone and is misleading the court by withholding information he knew would be favourable to the accused person,” Samukange argued.
“This is a clear case of persecution and selective prosecution; a lot of people have skipped the boarder but were never brought to book.”
However, Prosecutor Fransisca Mukumbiri queried: “Can you say a person who was a tourist in another country can be called a refugee?”
The case will be determined today.
Kasukuwere first appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts last month facing charges of illegally skipping the country’s border in November last year.
He was granted $300 bail and ordered to continue residing at his current address, while reporting at Borrowdale Police Station once a week.
His passport is being held by the State as an exhibit.
Kasukuwere, along with other Zanu PF functionaries aligned to the Generation 40 (G40) faction, among them Jonathan Moyo (former Higher and Tertiary Education minister) and Patrick Zhuwao (ex-minister of Labour and Social Welfare) skipped the country in a huff after the military stepped in to flush out alleged “criminals” who had surrounded former president Robert Mugabe.
Moyo and Zhuwao are still in self-imposed exile, presumably in Kenya, while Kasukuwere, who had sought refuge in South Africa, decided to return home last month saying he feared nothing as he had not committed any crime.
It had been widely speculated that Mugabe had negotiated their safe exit through the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport as part of his exit deal, negotiated with the military, which had seized power on November 14 before masterminding Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ascendance to the presidency.
In December last year, Kasukuwere said when the army opened fire at his house, he was inside. Along with Moyo, they then ran away on foot into the bushes where they found an escape route and fled.
He said they even passed through parks and continued on and on.
Moyo tweeted in November that SAS snipers fired for 15 minutes at Kasukuwere’s house where he and his colleague, their wives and seven children were.
He later revealed in an interview on BBC Hardtalk in January that he was warned not to sleep at his house on the night of November 14, so when SAS soldiers attacked his residence he and his family were no there.
Pressed to say they left Zimbabwe, Moyo said: “I left Zimbabwe with the help of people who to me are angels, because they saved lives, and I am not liberty to say who helped me, how they helped me and how I left Zimbabwe except to say I left Zimbabwe when president Mugabe was the president of the country and I left with the assistance of these people legally. I left the country legally. I managed to escape the net of the military people and to be where I am legally.”
In his first interview, Mugabe revealed how Moyo and Kasukuwere sent an SOS to his wife, Grace, claiming that they were under siege.
Mugabe said Grace then organised some of her security details and told them to go and save Kasukuwere and Moyo.
“And she put together the cars and the persons that she had. I wasn’t here and so they were brought to our house, Professor Jonathan Moyo and Kasukuwere and their families,” he said.
Mugabe claimed that more than 50 soldiers besieged Kasukuwere’s house, where Moyo and his family had also sought refuge after the soldiers rolled out the tanks, a development that eventually led to Mugabe’s ouster.
He, however, said the bullets did not go through the “shatter glass” at Kasukuwere’s house.
Kasukuwere then called Grace, telling her that they were under siege and that was when the former first lady sent her security detail to rescue them.
When the soldiers saw the two vehicles approaching, they left the place and that was how they were rescued.
The two families were then taken to Mugabe’s Blue Roof mansion, with the former president saying his ministers’ children were literally naked when they were brought to his house.
Mugabe added that Grace risked her security officials to rescue Kasukuwere and Moyo’s families on “humanitarian grounds” because their children were defenceless.
When they arrived, Grace told the two ministers to flee immediately and she facilitated their escape.
Mugabe said the two ministers then managed to escape, but he did not go into detail about how they left and where they went to.