Chihuri car case — Fresh details emerge

Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri

HARARE – A lawyer representing Harare businessman Bigboy Pachirera, who is demanding $2,9 million from retired police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri, has revealed how he was approached with a settlement plan to return some of the property allegedly forcibly taken by the ex-police boss.

After 23 years of enforcing law and order as the country’s top policeman, the tables turned against the former police commissioner-general after he was forced to retire, with Pachirera accusing him of impounding five cars and later changing ownership into his name while still heading the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).

Pachirera has listed Chihuri, his wife Isabel and their company Kidsdale Enterprises as respondents to his claim of compensation and damages of $2 968 000 incurred after his vehicles and property were impounded, causing him to lose business.

According to a letter dated January 15 compiled by Rungano Mahuni, Chihuri offered to return two of the motor vehicles — a Mercedes Benz and Jeep Cherokee.

“In your settlement plan, you only mentioned the Mercedes Benz and Jeep Cherokee motor vehicles. Our client is amenable to receive the said two motor vehicles in lieu if we have the chance to inspect them and determine their condition,” Mahuni said.

“However, there was no mention of the trucks and the house. Our client’s reasonable demand is that your client (Chihuri) returns all the trucks and the house plus an additional truck or its value just to mitigate the loses he has suffered in business for the past three years.

“Our client is aware that your client is earning income out of the use of those vehicles which are working on the Harare-Mutare highway.

“We also advise that we are amenable to the parties having a round table conference in order to deal with this matter.”
Chihuri had claimed that Pachirera surrendered the property to him willingly as compensations for a spiral of thefts that he committed after running a parallel company to the former police boss’s Kidsdale Enterprises during his tenure as transport manager.

He claims that Pachirera would divert funds and contracts awarded to Kidsdale Enterprises to his company Chelnpac Investments (Pvt) Ltd — which was allegedly registered without declaring interest.

However, Pachirera told the Daily News that he was subjected to torture by members of the police homicide department and made to give up his property under duress.

He claims to have made several efforts to recover the motor vehicles and house during Chihuri’s reign but to no avail.

“We note that you have not responded to our letter requesting you to release our client’s property still in police custody to which we perceive there is no reason for your continued action of despoiling our client of his property,” reads a letter addressed to Police Serious Frauds Department on March 6, 2014.

“In the circumstances, we further intimate to you that we are very loath to invoke legal recourse to assert our client’s rights but should you persist in this course, we shall have no option but to pursue the route.”

Mahuni maintains that a team of detectives from homicide led by Joseph Nemaisa stormed his offices to seize the cars since he had been given custody by Pachirera.

He said police officers first went to his residence and poisoned his dog called Queen before he received a call in the morning threatening him with “consequences” if he continued resisting surrendering the cars.

“True to their word the notorious police hit man Nemaisa went to my office then situated in Samora Machel and brandished guns before our receptionist. He indicated to the receptionist that they wanted the Mercedes Benz and Jeep Cherokee before I was informed that my client’s wife had been abducted,” Mahuni said.

He said whenever they attempted to engage the police, Mahuni would be told to comply with any directive that came his way because “the matter was complicated since it involved the boss”.

The businessman told the Daily News that he could speak openly about the issue fearing for his life because of threats that he received from the police over the issue.

“My residence was kept under police surveillance, each time I went out, police would follow me. I got to a point where two armed police officers displaying guns roamed about 100 metres from my residence. I think it is because of God’s grace that I am alive today,” Pachirera said.

In a December 5, 2017 letter delivered to Chihuri’s Shawasha residence and private business offices in Alex Park, Harare, Pachirera’s lawyers Mahuni Gidiri Law Chambers demanded the damages and property to be returned.

“Since the time you unlawfully despoiled our client of his property, he has lost business and income in excess of $1,4 million and also suffered personality infringement in the sum of $1 million.

“The value of the property that you deprived our client amounts to $470 000 and $50 000 for the Highfield home . . . he was earning $1 000 in rentals from that property and has lost income of $48 000.”

Pachirera’s lawyer claims that no action was taken by Chihuri since receiving that letter and they have resorted to courts for reprieve.

The businessman told the Daily News that he could not speak openly about the issue fearing for his life because of threats that he received from the police over the issue.

Chihuri was retired from the ZRP by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in December and was replaced by Godwin Matanga, albeit in an acting capacity.

The 64-year-old ex-combatant’s tenure was marred by widespread allegations of corruption and gross human rights violations, which were levelled against him and the police force.

Chihuri had been under intense pressure to quit the police force ever since the Zimbabwe Defence Forces carried out Operation Restore Legacy which led to the fall of former president Robert Mugabe who resigned on November 21 after Parliament had put in motion impeachment proceedings against him.

This was further highlighted by thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans who booed him at Mnangagwa’s inauguration on November 24 when he was about to take his oath of allegiance to the new president.

Chihuri was firstly booed as he arrived at the packed 60 000-capacity stadium.

His humiliation reached the peak when he read his loyalty pledge as people vented their anger and chanted “he should go, he should go, he should go”, while others rolled hands to signal a substitution, a sign that is normally used in football.

Contrary to the gratitude expressed to other members of the security sector, Chihuri, reportedly seen as part of a component of the security forces who wanted to defend Mugabe’s hegemony, had a torrid time maintaining composure as he struggled to read through his loyalty pledge.

Chihuri was mainly unpopular for the numerous roadblocks which were being mounted by the police which the public alleged were meant to extort motorists.

Apart from triggering a public outcry, the ubiquitous roadblocks drove away international tourists who complained of harassment and demands of bribes by cops manning them.

Chihuri received his military training at Mgagao in Tanzania and had been the longest-serving police chief after he assumed the helm of the force in 1993.

He took over the reins as acting commissioner in 1991 replacing Henry Mukurazhizha.

Two years later, he eventually became substantive police commissioner in 1993.

In 2008, he was appointed commissioner-general when the post was created to replace that of commissioner. – Daily News