New Zimbabwe (London)

15 February 2014

Zimbabwe: Coup Plot Ex-Army Captain Nears Freedom

ALLEGED coup plotter and former army captain, Albert Matapo, is about to taste freedom after almost four years in the slammer.

Sources told New Zimbabwe.com that Matapo, who was arrested and tortured along with several other detainees in 2007 for attempting to overthrow veteran President Robert Mugabe, will be freed early next month.

"Matapo will be a free man in a week's time he has served his time for allegedly trying to break out of prison while he was being held for treason and attempted coup," said a source privy to the developments.

"Albert is coming out of prison on March 1, 2014 but he fears for his life outside. He told me that strangers have been visiting him of late and that they have taken photos of him on two occasions," a relative said on condition of anonymity.

Elizabeth Banda, the national spokesperson of the department of Prisons and Correctional Services, confirmed Matapo was nearing release.

"I am aware that he has served his term and about is due for release although I am not sure about the exact date. I will need to check that for you later," Banda said.

Two years ago, Matapo's relations claimed that there had been a plot to liquidate the former soldier by the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).

A number of Zimbabweans, among them former deputy president Joshua Nkomo, opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Ndabaningi Sithole have been hauled before the courts on charges of trying to overthrow Mugabe.

In 2007, Matapo and a group of other former soldiers as well as some MDC-T activists were arrested for leading an attempted coup against Mugabe in a bid to replace him with then Rural Housing Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa reportedly leads a faction that is engaged in a war of attrition with deputy president Joice Mujuru to succeed Mugabe who turns 90 later this month.

Matapo and his colleagues spent four gruelling years in remand prison as the authorities ignored several bail orders.

They were freed in 2010 after the High Court ordered their release, saying their continued incarceration without trial was unlawful.

Matapo however remained locked up after the state claimed he was facing another charge of trying to escape from jail.

He was then slapped with a five-year jail sentence by Harare regional magistrate Morgan Nemadire for allegedly trying to escape. Two years were suspended on conditions, leaving an effective 3 year term.

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