An off-duty police officer has been identified as the leader of a suspected extrajudicial hit squad that attempted to abduct a newspaper editor on Friday.
ZimLive reports that Detective Sergeant Patrice Nyanhete – from CID Law & Order in Bulawayo – has been positively identified by persons he interacted with at ZimLive editor Mduduzi Mathuthu’s Bulawayo home while purporting to enforce a lawful arrest.
The unwelcome visitors left instructions that the Mathuthu should present himself to Office 12 at the Law and Order section at Bulawayo Central Police Station and see Nyanhete.
Mathuthu’s lawyer Nqobani Sithole later went to the police station but was advised that Nyanhete was “off duty”. On further enquiry, Law and Order detectives present said Mathuthu was not a person of interest, according to the lawyer.
National police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi has also distanced police from the operation. NewsHawks reported Nyathi as saying Friday:
I have contacted the Officer Commanding Bulawayo, but we are not aware of that.
Emerging information indicates Nyanhete was not due to return to work for another week, lending credence to fears the operation was an attempted abduction.
Five men driving in a vehicle without number plates, and claiming to be police officers, arrived at Mathuthu’s home just after midday but the journalist was not present.
The men did not show their police badges and declined a request to leave their contacts, people present said. Mathuthu’s lawyer said Friday:
I’m now more concerned than I was when I went to the police station.
If the people at Mathuthu’s house were not police officers, and given that they didn’t want to be identified by driving a vehicle without number plates, then it’s safe to assume that this was going to be an abduction and not an arrest.
Witnesses remembered only that the vehicle used was a silver sedan with number plates removed.
Mathuthu said he had “absolutely no idea” when asked why he had attracted interest from the police.
Mathuthu told Kukurigo he was in a secure location Sunday evening.