Zimbabwe's former VP on the run, says fears poisoning

Tuesday August 20 2019

Zimbabwe's former vice-president Phelekezela Mphoko.

Zimbabwe's former vice-president Phelekezela Mphoko. Mr Mphoko is being treated as a fugitive after escaping from anti-corruption officials. PHOTO | AGENCIES  

KITSEPILE NYATHI
By KITSEPILE NYATHI
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Zimbabwe's former vice-president is on the run after evading arrest by the country’s anti-corruption commission.

Phelekezela Mphoko had been summoned to appear in court on Monday in the second city of Bulawayo.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) said the politician—who is being charged with obstruction of justice and criminal abuse of office—was at the magistrates courts when he suddenly drove at high speed.

“He was at court and when he saw ZACC officials, he drove off at high speed on the ridiculous excuse that officials wanted to poison him,” the commission’s spokesperson John Makamure said.

“He is now on the run and ZACC officials are engaged in efforts to apprehend him.”

However, lawyer Zibusiso Ncube told AFP that they had an agreement with ZACC that on Monday he would sign a statement at the police "but when we got there they said they (the police) had instructions to detain him".

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"He drove away and is at home."

Ncube said his client had "heard from impeccable sources that if he is detained, he will be injected with a poisonous substance".

“That was a dramatic shift...one does not need to go to a police station to sign a warned and cautioned statement. The client was already concerned, he fears that these people want to kill him,” Ncube told the Voice of America.

Mphoko was, along with current President Emmerson Mnangagwa, one of two vice presidents at the time of the ouster by the military of Robert Mugabe in November 2017.
When Mr Mugabe was put under house arrest by the military, Mr Mphoko was in Japan on government business.

He did not return home at the end of the trip, but sought refuge in neighbouring Botswana where he once served as an envoy.

Nonetheless, former Botswana president Ian Khama ordered Mphoko’s deportation.

Mphoko’s family say he is being persecuted by Mnangagwa’s government to settle old scores.

“If it’s justice they really seek, we told them let’s get in court and conduct the trial,” Mr Ncube added.

—Additional reporting by AFP.

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