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Six Zimbabweans suspected of plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe’s government are being held by the Hawks in Limpopo following their arrests a fortnight ago.
The five men and a woman, aged between 22 and 34, were apprehended at the Grobler’s Bridge border post in Witpoort near Lephalale on their way to Mozambique to receive military training to force regime change in neighbouring Zimbabwe. According to the Hawks, the suspects were arrested with the help of foreign military assistance.
Their arrest comes shortly after claims by a Zimbabwean “terrorist” group, Smoke That Thunders, that Mozambique’s Renamo bandits had offered them a military training base. The group claimed they were preparing to forcefully end Mugabe’s 36-year rule before Christmas.
In a video posted online, a man who identifies himself as the group’s commander, Jeff Judahosana,said the Mozambique-based group was recruiting men between the ages of 20 and 45.
Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, said they were yet to receive reports about the arrests but said they were aware of claims that Renamo had offered training to the group.
“They (South Africa) may have communicated with our security cluster because they have their own way of handling such issues. There were claims that Renamo offered to train them, but we never took that seriously. But, in any case, they know what awaits them,” Charamba said.
The six arrested in Limpopo were remanded in custody after appearing in the Lephalale Magistrate’s Court last week. They face charges related to terrorism and contravening the Immigration Act.
A Hawks source close to the investigation said: “It appears they were recruited to undergo military training in Mozambique in order to overthrow the Zimbabwean government.”
Another source at the Witpoort police station confirmed that the suspects were still in the holding cells.
“The matter is being handled by the Hawks and they don’t want anyone near the suspects because they are still interrogating them,” a source said.
Zimbabwe’s ambassador in Pretoria Isaac Moyo said the issue had not been mentioned during a meeting with a South African delegation in Harare last week.
“We have not heard anything regarding that matter from our South African counterparts. We had a meeting in Zimbabwe last week where these issues were discussed but this was not brought up,” Moyo said.
State Security Department spokesperson Brian Dube said they were not aware of the arrest.
“Normally, when we conduct such operations we do them jointly with the Hawks, but I can’t confirm this one,” he said.
Hawks spokesperson in Limpopo Capt Tinyiko Maluleke was not available for comment.
President Jacob Zuma is due to travel to Zimbabwe next week as a follow up to economic and trade agreements signed by the two countries last year when Mugabe was in South Africa.
Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela refused to comment on the arrests ahead of Zuma’s trip, saying it was a police matter.
“It’s an arrest and it is being handled by the police,” Monyela said.
Peter Ramothwala and Mthokozisi Dube