Patrick Chitumba and Lloyd Gumbo
POLICE have launched an investigation after intruders broke into the office of Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the early hours of yesterday — the fourth such incident.
The intruders drilled a ceiling panel to gain access into Mnangagwa’s 6th floor Ministry of Justice office at the New Government Complex in Harare. It was not clear if anything had been stolen.
Police investigators, some with sniffer dogs, swarmed the Acting President’s office starting early yesterday morning after the break-in was noticed.
Investigators from the Radiation Protection Authority of Zimbabwe were also brought in, suggesting fears of a chemical attack on the Acting President.
Speaking about the incident, Acting President Mnangagwa, during a briefing to Zanu-PF’s provincial leadership in Kwekwe before he attended a church service for the late, Estelle Theresa, wife to prominent Midlands farmer and businessman Neville Coetzee, said the burglars gained entry through the ceiling.
“Some people broke into my office yesterday, my office at the Ministry of Justice,” he said.
Laughing and looking relaxed, the Acting President added: “Maybe somebody doesn’t want me and is blocking my way.”
Mnangagwa, who oversees the Justice Ministry on top of his duties as Vice President, uses the ministry’s 6th floor office at the New Government Complex at the corner of Samora Machel Avenue and Simon Muzenda Street.
Mnangagwa’s offices have been broken into four times at the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and once at Defence House when he was Minister of Defence.
His offices at the Zanu-PF headquarters in Harare were also once broken into by unknown elements in 2014 who laced his desk with cyanide, poisoning his secretary who had to be hospitalised.
Following that incident on December 10, 2014, President Robert Mugabe said he was aware “of people who really want to harm us, physical harm also.”
The latest security breach came two days after Sports Minister Makhosini Hlongwane called in the police after finding a live bullet in his 16th floor hotel room at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Harare.
Hlongwane said he made the shock finding on Monday evening as he returned from his office.
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Christopher Mushohwe yesterday said the government was concerned with the unending break-ins at Mnangagwa’s offices.
“This is the sixth time that this kind of break-in has happened into the offices of the Acting President,” he said. “We’re concerned especially on this one because you can see the holes that they drilled and pulled the ceiling from the roof and used the hole as an entrance.
“We don’t know what they wanted here or what they’ve done or taken from here because the experts are yet to do some thorough investigations.”
Minister Mushohwe said it was clear the incessant negative media reports by the private media, particularly The Daily News, against Acting President Mnangagwa were a precursor to the break-in at the offices.
The whole of this week, The Daily News has been leading with stories that portrayed a negative picture of Mnangagwa.
On Monday, the paper led with a story headlined “Mnangagwa begs Mugabe … as VP feels heat of Zanu- PF’s brutal succession wars”.
On Tuesday they led with a story titled: “VP allies face Zanu-PF sack … as Midlands succession wars continue to escalate.”
Yesterday, the paper had a headline story titled: “Mnangagwa in a corner as G40 minister gets bullet parcel.”
Said Minister Mushohwe: “We’re concerned because this then looks like it’s the climax of the persistent negative media reports on the person of the Acting President that we’re witnessing from certain sections of the media including today’s paper of one such media house.
“Then we get persuaded to think that all those stories were a build-up to this kind of mischief. But the law enforcement agents will do their work and we’ll get to know the results.
“I must also say the police, I think, are still working and we want to continue to work on the issue of the Zanu-PF one (2014 break-in) because that one can’t just be dismissed as a non-event where cyanide was put on the desk.
“We await to see what results will come out. Certainly as government we’re concerned and whoever is responsible for this must understand that the government can’t allow this to continue to happen.
“The pattern suggests that the same perpetrators who did it the last time who used that panel used this panel. So they know the nature of the panels here.”
Minister Mushohwe said it was clear that the culprits were people who were familiar with the architecture of the building as they gained entry using the ceiling.
He said the government would work flat out to ensure that culprits were brought to book.
Minister Mushohwe, who together with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services George Charamba and principal director Regis Chikowore respectively, visited Mnangagwa’s offices yesterday to have an appreciation of what transpired, said the Acting President was not moved by the latest action but wanted the law to take its course.
“The Acting President’s reaction is that this is not the first time that he has experienced it. He knows that some people have been making some attempts on his life. You know he’s a lawyer who respects the law. He wants the law enforcement agents to do their work and then when the results are out then the government will take the necessary action,” said Mushowe.
“If the intention was to intimidate him, then they don’t know the person of the Acting President because he’s not easily intimidated by this kind of thing.
“Naturally as a nation, we’re taken aback. We don’t expect this kind of thing to be done on the Acting President because whoever is doing it must have malicious intentions. As government, correct measures will be taken once the culprits are identified. We hope that law enforcement agents will do a thorough job to make sure that the perpetrators are brought to book.”
Virginia Mabhiza, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, said she was “not very sure of the motive whether it is to gain entry or to insert objects.”
She added: “So far, we can’t confirm whether there was any access into the room. All we can say is that the ceiling was tampered with, with two very visible holes which were possibly drilled. We are not sure of the motive and we’ve not fully assessed what else could have been done in this office.
“We can’t rule out any foul play or anything that is potentially dangerous to the life of the Acting President because we wonder what the motive could be to come during the night and do such a thing. We’re actually very worried as to why such things continue to happen.”
Last night, national police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba declined to comment.