3 April 1998

Zimbabwe: Verna Chikowore involved in Chidakwa case

Harare — While minister Enos Chikowore has absolved his wife from the 1990 attack on his ex-lover, Debra Chidakwa, Verna Chikowore together with four other women were in fact investigated by the police for attempted murder in the same year but were never prosecuted, the Zimbabwe Independent ascertained this week.

According to information at hand, Verna Chikowore, Jessina Muzabazi and three other women were picked up by police after the burning of flat number 12, St Tropez in 1990. Mrs Chikowore and Muzabazi were detained on separate occasions for two nights at Rhodesville Police Station and later released.

It could not however be ascertained from the court records why Mrs Chikowore was released while Muzabazi was only released after she could not be positively identified by Chidakwa at an identification parade.

Later Muzabazi sued the Ministry of Home Affairs and the police on the grounds that she had been arrested unlawfully and claimed $20 000 in damages. She however lost the case after Justice George Smith ruled that her arrest was in fact lawful and that she had not been detained under subhuman conditions at the Rhodesville police cells as she had alleged.

During the suit application, Muzabazi was represented by Mr Phiri from Ziumbe and Mtambanengwe, while the Minister of Home Affairs, Chief Superintendent Jambawu, Inspector Hwande, Inspector Lunga and Woman Sergeant Mugadza were represented by K Ngozo.

At the time of filing her suit, Muzabazi was employed in the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). According to the judgement, she and Mrs Chikowore, also employed by the CIO at the time, gave evidence concerning the events of January and February 1990.

Facts leading to Muzabazi's arrest are that on January 15 1990 five women entered Chidakwa's St Tropez flat and hid inside. When Chidakwa returned home they grabbed her and tied her to a bed. They then set fire to some papers in the flat and left, locking the door behind them. Chidakwa screamed and she and her son were later rescued.

On January 26 of the same year Muzabazi was arrested and taken to the Central Police Station where she was questioned by the police about what she had done on the afternoon/evening of January 15.

After being questioned for about four and a half hours by the police Muzabazi was taken to Rhodesville Police Station. She was told that she would be required to attend an identification parade the following day, which was Sunday. Muzabazi was taken to Harare Central Police Station

the following afternoon where an identification parade was held.

Chidakwa picked Muzabazi out and asked her to walk around but said that she could not positively identify her as being one of her attackers. She was released after the parade and taken back to her house.

Mrs Chikowore told the court that she was also arrested in January 1990 on an allegation of attempted murder. She had been taken to Central Police Station and questioned until about 9pm when she was taken to a Police rest camp outside Harare to sleep. The following day she was returned to Central Police Station and kept in an office where she was questioned and that night she was taken back to the rest camp but there was no room there. So she was brought back to town and taken to a hotel where she spent the night.

Muzabazi admitted that she was a friend of Mrs Chikowore, but denied that she had been involved in the attempted murder of Ms Chidakwa and her son.

She had been questioned and then detained because there were four others involved in the attempted murder.

Police had not been able to lift any fingerprints from the flat because when the fire brigade put out the flames the contents of the flat had been damaged or destroyed. Police had received tip-offs implicating by name Muzabazi, Mrs Chikowore and a third person as being amongst the group of five that attacked Chidakwa. Another tip-off in person and another anonymously by telephone had been received.

The evidence given by Chief Superintendent Jambawu did not differ materially from that of Woman Sergeant Mugadza. He said that Chidakwa had named Chikowore's wife as being one of her assailants.

Although Verna Chikowore was the main suspect, she had not been arrested until February 5 1990, some ten days after the arrest of Muzabazi and the other suspects.

Last week the Attorney-General, Patrick China- masa, said no progress can be made on allegations against Verna Chikowore in the absence of Chidakwa.

Chidakwa has indicated her willingness to come home but is having problems in getting back her passport.

At the time of going to press the Attorney-General had not responded to enquiries from this newspaper as to whether his office could facilitate Chidakwa's return to Zimbabwe as the state often assisted witnesses to come from outside to testify.

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