Zimbabwe’s national security establishment bigwig, Mnangagwa’s mentor dies

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One of Zimbabwe’s security establishment bigwigs, who defined an era in his field from Rhodesia to post-colonial Zimbabwe amid a record of brutality and terror, David Daniel “Dan” Stannard, later close to President Emmerson Mnangagwa as State Security minister in the 1980s, died quietly recently in the United Kingdom.

A famous police detective and then later CIO boss – his victims undoubtedly would say infamous – Stannard died on 30 March 2023 at Ely, Cambridgeshire, UK.

He was a resident of Mildenhall Road, Fordham, near Ely, and passed away from ill-health at Soham Lodge, an old age care home, where he was being looked after.

He was 85.

Stannard is survived by six children: Alison, Jaqueline, Catherine, Jennifer, David and Mark.

Dan’s wife Pat passed away recently in September 2021.

Stannard was born on 28 November 1937, at Pershwar ((Multan, Bengal, India before the 1947 partition) Pakistan where his father, William, had been serving in the British Army with a Gurkha Regiment that saw action Malaya during World War II.

His mother was Rose Stannard (neé Lawrence).

The Stannard family left India in 1947 after the country gained independence from Britain. They settled in Lichfield, Staffordshire, and later moved to Liverpool.

Stannard was partly schooled in the UK and towards the end of his schooling he attended Welbeck College, Worksop, Nottingham, until 1956. He did a short spell in National service before venturing out to Africa.

The young Stannard travelled to Africa aboard the Arundel Castle, and attested on 17 March 1957 into the British South Africa Police (force number 5668 – Squad 4/1957), where his older brother, Bernard W Peter, was already a serving officer. Following his depot training in Rhodesia, Stannard was posted to Rusape, Manicaland, as a police constable.

That’s where his Rhodesia career took shape as he proved his mettle early in the game. He was awarded the Commissioners’ Special Commendation for his courageous part in rescuing passengers from a stranded bus in a flooded Macheke River.

From Rusape, he was transferred to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Salisbury.

As a young detective, he distinguished himself and became well-known.

Later he got engaged to a Penhalonga lady Patricia Margaret Brown in November 1959 and they married in Umtali (Mutare) on 23 April 1960.

After years working in Mutare, Stannard was promoted to Detective Sergeant in July 1962. He spent a couple of years in the newly-formed Rhodesian Special Branch (SB).

In the SB, he was tasked to deal with the nationalist movement and its political leaders, particularly founding Zanu leader Ndabaninigi Sithole who was active in Manicaland and the Zhanda groups.

After the petrol bombing of the Nyanyadzi Police Station and the murder of Petrus Oberholzer, Stannard was an integral part of the team that investigated those cases.

He also dealt with the Crocodile Gang which Mnangagwa claims he was part of despite strong denials by its founder members.

On 17 June 1963 Leopold Smith, an accountant at Premier Estates, went on a rampage at the estate killing four employees and wounded seven others, including policeman, Sandy Coutts (who was later rewarded for his bravery).

All the resources of the CID and SB were deployed to deal with the criminal at large.

On Smith’s arrest, the Provincial Criminal Investigation Officer Manicaland Ian McKay delegated Stannard to handle the case.

By October 1971, Stannard had been promoted to Detective Inspector.

When liberation leaders were released at the end of 1974, Stannard kept them under surveillance.

However, the following year, 1975 after the assassination of Zanu chair Herbert Chitepo, Stannard was instructed not to intercept Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere who were known by the Special Branch to be plotting an escape into Mozambique.

Stannard gave them free passage as the Rhodesians wanted them out.

On 31 October 1975, by then a Superintendent (promoted August 1974), Stannard was awarded Police Long Service Medal.

As a CID officer, he had spent much time during the liberation war as a representative on Joint Operations Command (JOC), which Mugabe and Mnangagwa have happily kept as a Rhodesian security establishment relic.

Mugabe and Mnangagwa have retained Rhodesian apparatus of repression and use it to this day.

One of Stannard’s main tasks during the late 1970s was to investigate senior commanders of Rhodesia’s deadly military unit, the Selous Scouts, for elephant poaching and ivory trafficking in the Lowveld.

After an illustrious career, full of awards, drama and brutality, Stannard retired from police as Chief Superintendent on 30 August 1981.

Before his retirement, he had been seconded to the Special Branch as Provincial Special Branch Officer, Salisbury, in the footsteps of the departing Gordon Waugh.

Stannard later took a transfer to the CIO where he was appointed Deputy Director Internal.

He served with Mike Reeves who was Director Internal under the leadership of Ken Flower, CIO’s founding Director-General.

On the departure of Reeves, Stannard took over as Director Internal of CIO, Branch I, which included police Special Branch, dealing with internal intelligence gathering.

Ironically, Stannard is credited with foiling an assassination attempt on Mugabe, soon to become Prime Minister of the new Zimbabwe, by a South African fifth column in 1980.

For that, he was awarded with the Gold Cross of Zimbabwe.

The CIO went through a political restructuring, absorbing police Special Branch, a move done by Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s first security minister under Mugabe.

This was done to consolidate Zanu party influence within the intelligence community, but more specifically to deal with Zapu and its leader Joshua Nkomo, whom Mugabe feared as his greatest threat in his new reign.

As CIO Director Internal in the ’80, Stannard then became very close to Mnangagwa and did his dirty works.

As CIO’s internal intelligence chief, Stannard became deeply involved in Mugabe’s political repression wave, including in Gukurahundi, as Zanu pushed for a one-party state, sowing the seeds of Zimbabwe’s failure down the line.

Under Mnangagwa’s wings, he directed many CIO operations that killed thousands of people during Gukurahundi, now widely acknowledged as genocide or crimes against humanity.

Stannard also worked closely with the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade commander Perrence Shiri.

After a long career characterised by distinction, brutality and bloodshed, Stannard retired from the CIO in 1994 and took up a new role as a lobbyist, security consultant and cricket follower.

Well known former policeman and intelligence chief, David Daniel ‘Dan’[1] Stannard, passed away on 30 March 2023 at Ely, Cambridgeshire. A former resident of Mildenhall Road, Fordham, near Ely, ill health took him to the Soham Lodge, a care home, where he passed away. He was 85 years of age and is survived by his six children, Alison, Jaqueline ‘Jackie’, Catherine, Jennifer, David and Mark. Dan’s wife, Pat, passed away recently in September 2021.

Dan Stannard was born on 28 November 1937, at Pershwar, Pakistan (Multan, Bengal, India before 1947 partition) where his father, William, had been serving in the British Army with a Gurkha Regiment that saw action Malaya during World War II. His mother was Rose (neé Lawrence) Stannard. Dan was christened on 30 December 1937. He had three brothers and three sisters.

The Stannard family left India in 1947, after the country gained independence from Britain. They settled in Lichfield, Staffordshire and later moving to Liverpool. Dan was partly schooled in the United Kingdom and towards the end of his schooling he attended Welbeck College, Worksop, Nottingham leaving 1956. He did a short spell in National service before venturing out to Africa.

The young Stannard travelled to Africa aboard the Arundel Castle, and attested on 17 March 1957 into the British South Africa Police (force number 5668 – Squad 4/1957), where his older brother, Bernard W Peter Stannard PMM was already a serving officer. Following his Depot training, Dan was posted to Rusape District as a Constable. Dan proved his mettle early in his career, being awarded the Commissioners Special Commendation for his courageous part in rescuing passengers from a stranded bus in the swollen Macheke River (Manicaland). One of the passengers lost his hold on an improvised lifeline being swept away to an almost certain death, were it not for Constable Stannard jumping into the fast flowing river to save him. He transferred to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) early in his career.

As a young detective, Dan became acquainted with and later engaged to a local Penhalonga lady, Patricia Margaret Brown in November 1959 and they were married in Umtali on 23 April 1960.

Dan spent many years in the eastern border town then called Umtali (Mutare). Detective Stannard was promoted to Detective Sergeant in July 1962. He spent a couple of years in the newly formed Rhodesian Special Branch (SB).

Dan’s role in Special Branch was to monitoring the growth of ZANU and in particular the activities of its president the Rev. Ndabaninigi Sithole and the Zhanda groups. Sithole was a prominent nationalist figure, originating from Mount Selinda Mission, who organised an internal insurrection in Manicaland and the start of the insurgency. The first terrorist incidents were the attempt to petrol bomb the Nyanyadzi Police station and the murder of Petrus Oberholzer. Stannard was an integral part of the team that investigated these incidents.[2]

The insurgent group being investigated were known as the ‘Crocodile Gang’ – a member of which was Emmerson Mnangagwa, now President of Zimbabwe, who was eventually to become his political master. The gang, named ‘gentlemen with Molatov cocktails’ by his colleagues, were arrested by Stannard; apparently in a cave which they were using as a hide out. He, by then a Detective Section Officer, along with Detective Inspectors Michael Wiltshire and Dusty Binns had their good work brought to the notice of the Commissioner.

On the 17 June 1963 Leopold Smith, the accountant at Premier Estates, went on the rampage at the Estate killing four employees and wounded seven others, including policeman, Sandy Coutts (who was later awarded for his bravery). All the resources of the CID and SB were deployed to deal with the criminal at large. On the arrest of Smith, the Provincial Criminal Investigation Officer (PCIO) Manicaland, Ian McKay, delegated the recording of a warned and cautioned statement to the up and coming Stannard.[3]

Dan continued to serve with the CID where he served in core serious crime sections, including the Fraud Squad and the homicide section call Crimes of Violence. By October 1971 Dan Stannard had been promoted to Detective Inspector.

During March 1975, Dan had done a tour at the Rusape Special Branch offices. With the release of detained nationalists (ostensibly for talks in Zambia) the previous year, there were ongoing surveillance operations being conducted on these lead nationalist figures. These operations brought the now legendary escape of Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere (via Rusape and Inyanga) to Mozambique to Stannard’s doorstep. To his chagrin, Dan was under strict orders from above not to intercept the two.

On 31 October 1975, by then a Superintendent (promoted August 1974), he was awarded Police Long Service Medal (PLSM). As a CID officer, Dan Stannard had spent much time during the Rhodesian Bush War as a representative on Joint Operation Commands (JOCs).

One of his tasks during the late 1970s had been to investigate senior elements of Rhodesia’s most prestigious military unit, the Selous Scouts, concerning allegations of poaching and ivory trafficking in the Lowveldt. Nothing ever became of that, from a prosecution perspective, but it set off a spat between Ron Reid Daly and Major General John Hickman MC leading to a humiliating court case and the resignation of both[4].

Dan retired from the Zimbabwe Republic Police with the rank of Chief Superintendent on 30 August 1981. Before his retirement, Dan had been seconded to the Special Branch as Provincial Special Branch Officer, Salisbury and Mashonaland, in the footstep of the departing Gordon Waugh. Dan took transfer to the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) where he was appointed Deputy Director Internal (DDIN), Branch I. He served with Mike Reeves who was designated Director Internal under the leadership of Ken Flower, the Director General.

On the departure of Mike Reeves, Stannard took over and served as the Director Internal (DIN) of CIO, Branch I, inclusive of police Special Branch, and oversaw internal intelligence-gathering. Stannard is credited with foiling an assassination attempt on Robert Mugabe, soon to become Prime Minister of the new Zimbabwe, by a South African fifth column in 1980, an event for which he was awarded the Gold Cross of Zimbabwe.

The CIO went through a political transition absorbing the police Special Branch, a move by Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s first security minister. This had been done to consolidate party influence within the intelligence community, but more specifically to obviate intelligence getting into the possession of rival ZAPU faction member, Joshua Nkomo, who was then Minister of Home Affairs. It also served to enable seasoned Special Branch intelligence officers to train and mentor new entrant successors to the CIO.

As internal intelligence chief, Dan Stannard became haplessly embroiled with early, post-independence, internecine squabbles between staunch Rhodesian Front politicians and Mugabe’s government. Added to this, the old ZAPU-ZANU rifts were rippling through government. Controversially and indeed contentious, Dan, by his admission, suffered intelligence exclusion in the affected areas where turbulent events arose in Matabeleland; resulting in the Gukurahundi genocide by the Korean trained Fifth Brigade, commanded by Perence Shiri.

Dan retired from the CIO in 1994 and took up as a lobbyist and security consultant in commerce and industry in association with former colleague and former cricket team mate, the late Bob Schonken.

During his life, Dan had been a great sportsman with a particular passion for cricket and tennis. One anecdote suggests that Dan, not being the fastest runner and sometimes a handicap, could never run two runs, one was always enough. He preferred to stand in slips as Dan hated chasing after a ball. Even when he missed a ball in slips he would look to another fielder to go and fetch it no matter how far away the fielder was. [5]

One could describe Dan as a warm and easy-going character and his sporting ability at cricket and tennis particularly the latter meant that he was liked by his contemporaries and this skill facilitated quite early in his police career relations with senior officers of the force[6].

He represented police in both sports, and later went on to become a member of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union where he was appointed Director of Tours and manager of the Zimbabwe “B” side and then manager of the national squad. He took up the challenge of many young white cricketers whose families had been affected by Mugabe’s purge against white land owners. Dan used his influence to lobby for land redesignation to avoid the Mugabe purge, but not always with success.

In 2003 Dan had become a security target of the regime, following a contrived smear scandal, and was forced to leave Zimbabwe under threat of intense political harassment and possible arrest. He settled in Fordham with his wife and continued with his security consultancy work.

Dan had been quite a private person pursuing his own path in the best interest of his family and had been determined to stay in Zimbabwe. A man who was always in the right place at the right time, often for the good of others, and very influential at the highest levels of government and in foreign circles. He shall be sadly missed by many.

Andrew Field – Harare