How bigwigs tried to suppress gun-point rape prosecution

Part One: Kereke’s trial of destruction

There was no doubt Francis Maramwidze, a 72- year-old grandfather to a girl who was close to 10 years ago raped by Munyaradzi Kereke, a former advisor to Gideon Gono who was the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor between 2003 and 2013, was a troubled man.

 

Obey Manayiti/Veneranda Langa

Francis Maramwidze

When a crew from The Standard arrived at his spacious Greendale home on the eastern outskirts of the capital for an interview, the elderly man slouched in a chair under a tree, right palm firmly supporting his cheek and his legs crossed.

Formal greetings were exchanged but he was transfixed in that position for some time, not saying a word and lost in deep thought as he looked away, tears trickling down his cheeks.

After a courteous wait, the investigative team reminded him of its visit and that was when he started narrating the ordeal he went through in the fight to have Kereke prosecuted.

Wiping away the tears, Maramwidze told the journalists in a hoarse voice not to worry about his emotional state.

“What happened is very disheartening, especially for me as a grandfather and the whole family. Everyone was affected,” he began.

Kereke, also the former Zanu PF Member of Parliament for Bikita West and a once flourishing businessman with state-of-the-art medical centres to his name, raped the then 11-year-old girl in October 2010.

Maramwidze led a harrowing battle to have Kereke prosecuted from early November 2010 to July 2016 when the embattled businessman was finally convicted and slapped with an effective 10-year jail term he is currently serving at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, a few kilometres from Maramwidze’s house.

Kereke and the officials who colluded with him caused severe trauma, loss and suffering not only to the girl and other relatives, but also to her elderly grandfather, Maramwidze.

A team of journalists from The Standard supported by Information for Development Trust (IDT) discovered this during an investigative reconstruction of the rape case to get the finer details of how Kereke used key public office holders to suppress prosecution.

As he fought to have Kereke arrested and prosecuted, Maramwidze spent, and lost, an estimated $200 000 that he had to take from his haulage trucks and electrical hardware businesses.

“This Kereke rape case was very costly to me in terms of time and money,” he said.

“The total cost will be in the range of $150 000 to about $200 000.

“This money includes the cost of changing schools for the girls [victims], hiring private teachers for extra lessons, counselling fees, lawyers’ fees, transport costs and other expenses related to the case.

“My transport and electrical hardware businesses crumbled because I had no time for them anymore as I spent most of it following up on the case.

“I could not watch my granddaughters suffer the horror of sexual abuse. It was very painful,” he said.

Kereke’s victim is now 18 and Maramwidze describes her as a broken young woman who has now relocated to a secret place.

The rape took a severe toll on the girl who, Maramwidze added, would sometimes refuse to go to school and repeatedly lock herself away from friends and relatives and cried for her mother who was living in the United Kingdom.

The girl went into his custody when she was only a year old and her mother, Maramwidze’s second child, had relocated to the UK while the father lived in the United States. She grew up thinking of him as her father.

Kereke was married to one of Maramwidze’s relatives, Patience Muswapadare, whom the victims referred to as aunt and is a sister to the girls’ US-based father.

Kereke (right), a man of many wives during happier times

“He [Kereke] is a man of many wives, and one of his wives is the girls’ aunt, Muswapadare. As a family, we had known Kereke’s wife for quite a long time. Actually, we have known her since she was still of school-going age.

“Muswapadare occasionally asked for the girls to spend weekends at her house, and because I knew her from her childhood, I didn’t object to that,” said the grandfather, who assumed the girls were safe.

The victim later opened up to one of Maramwidze’s daughters, who in turn informed her husband.

“My son-in-law explained everything he had been told by his wife to me. I wept uncontrollably and everything began to connect and I could understand the awkward behaviour of my youngest granddaughter,” he said.

“I was so disappointed in that the aunt [Muswapadare] that I trusted so much had joined her husband [Kereke] in covering up the rape. How could she put my granddaughter under such trauma?”

That night in early November, Maramwidze made a report against Kereke for raping a minor child related to his wife, Muswapadare, at gunpoint and a docket was opened under CR 02/11/2010.

Two police officers accompanied him and the victim to Parirenyatwa Hospital where tests were conducted and penetration was confirmed.

Maramwidze, relatives and the rape victim had to wait until November 11 before Kereke could be brought in for a warned and cautioned statement, this time at Borrowdale Police Station.

The police could not explain the transfer of the case to Borrowdale, but more confusion awaited the victim’s guardian when a new docket, C 39/11/10, was opened two weeks after the first report.

Sympathetic police insiders confided in him that some senior officers connected to Kereke were blocking investigations, he said.

While doing follow-ups, he was told that the docket had been transferred to the Police General Headquarters (PGHQ) complaints desk, where he went and wrote a report.

After three days, Moses Chihuri, a senior assistant commissioner, invited him to a residential flat for senior police officers in Harare’s Avenues area in the company of four other top police officers who asked him to repeat his concerns.

“After about two days, Chihuri called so that I could meet him at PGHQ. In between CID [Criminal Investigation Department] officers from Ahmed House were pushing for the children to come to their offices, claiming they wanted more evidence.

“When I went back to PGHQ, I was not given a satisfactory answer. I challenged them openly on why police were doing this against what the Police Charter said. That is when I was told by one of them that they could get me involved in an accident and the child would be run over by another car just to destroy the evidence.

“This infuriated me more but when they saw that I was serious with the matter, Chihuri then downplayed the issue, saying it was a joke,” he said.

Efforts to track down Chihuri for his side of the story were fruitless.

Maramwidze said Kereke visited his house five times in a bid to persuade him to drop the rape charges.

“I first met Kereke face-to-face on a Monday after the rape case was reported and he came to my house in his Range Rover vehicle to try and negotiate with me to drop the charges,” he said.

“I was shaking with anger. He tried to persuade me to come with him to his house to talk about the issue, but I ordered him to leave because I had nothing to discuss with him.”

Records show Kereke’s attempts to conceal the rape included inviting the girls’ grandmother, Anna Muswapadare, who is also Kereke’s mother in law, to try and plead with Maramwidze to drop the charges.

The affidavit in possession of The Standard signed by Kereke’s mother in law, Anna, dated November 10 2010, shows that she had also joined Kereke’s camp to try and conceal the rape.

Realising that his in-laws were not bringing desired results, Kereke threatened Maramwidze and his relatives with separate million dollar lawsuits for allegedly defaming him.

Borrowdale police officers were not helpful when Maramwidze reported the threats.

“The police warned me of possible threats to my life as well as the victim’s life because they said Kereke was well-connected.

“They said they wanted the girls’ signatures so that the docket would be closed because the matter had taken too long. I refused and told them that, procedurally, it was not possible,” he said.

At that stage, Maramwidze decided to approach lawyers, Warara and Associates, to help the rape victim get justice.

 

Part Two: Kereke’s winding road to Chikurubi Maximum Prison

Fresh details have emerged of how former Zanu PF MP Munyaradzi Kereke manipulated state institutions, including the police, in his vain attempt to escape prosecution for raping an 11-year-old girl.

Kereke, a former advisor to retired Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, was last year sentenced to 10 years in jail for raping his niece.

The girl’s uncle, Francis Maramwidze recently opened up for the first time in an exclusive interview with The Standard, revealing how he lost $200 000 as he sought justice for his granddaughter.

Maramwidze’s hardware and transport business also collapsed as he battled for close to a decade to get Kereke prosecuted.

Kereke, once a wealthy businessman with interests in the health sector, used police officers to intimidate the victim’s family and received help from the attorney general’s (AG’s) office to frustrate lawyers pursuing the rape case.

He was eventually convicted of rape and sent to Chikurubi Maximum Prison for the heinous crime.

Kereke (kneeling at the back) was finally sent to prison after many false starts

In an effort to reconstruct one of Zimbabwe’s most high-profile rape cases in history, this paper stumbled on fresh evidence showing how Kereke used his highly-placed connections to stay out of jail for a decade.

Documents that Charles Warara of Warara and Associates who represented the girl availed to The Standard, some of which were also presented in court, offer glimpses into nail-biting efforts to untangle Kereke’s capture of the police and the attorney general’s office.

The AG’s office, then led by Johannes Tomana who was later appointed the prosecutor general and is currently on suspension for allegedly abusing his office, declined to prosecute the rape case.

On December 17 2010, Warara wrote to the AG’s office and the Police General Headquarters complaining about the lack of will on their part to arrest Kereke and have him prosecuted.

Two months later, the lawyer also wrote to the officer-in-charge of Borrowdale Police Station complaining that police were “sitting on the matter for political reasons”.

In a letter dated February 21 2011, the police responded to Warara saying the docket had been forwarded to the AG’s office.

Maramwidze was then invited for a meeting by a senior police officer, Moses Chihuri, to discuss his complaint over police’s alleged negligence and protection of Kereke.

Chihuri, according to Maramwidze, admitted that Kereke was too influential.

Prior to that, on January 27 2012, Warara had written to the AG indicating his intention to take the matter to private prosecution since Tomana was dithering on his constitutional duty to prosecute.

On April 15 2012, Warara wrote to the Commissioner General of Police Augustine Chihuri demanding to know why the AG had declined to prosecute the matter when there was damaging evidence against Kereke.

The letters were ignored and on July 20 2012 Warara wrote again to Tomana demanding to handle the prosecution on his own in terms of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act

Several other letters that Warara wrote to the AG fell on deaf ears and he only got a response on July 27 2012 that claimed that an earlier letter which the AG had written in reply to Warara had disappeared and could not be located in the files.

At one time, a frustrated Maramwidze said he even considered bringing public interest groups to assist in getting co-operation from the police to get justice for the rape victim, but did not follow that through.

He then approached the High Court in a matter where the commissioner general of ZRP was the first respondent and the AG the second respondent, seeking permission to independently prosecute the case and pay the costs of the application, under case number HC 10203/12.

Chihuri filed an opposing affidavit on September 15 2012, arguing that the allegations against Kereke had not been proven before a competent court and they could not act on mere suspicion of a crime having been committed.

The AG’s office, on its part, insisted it could not prosecute because the evidence given against Kereke lacked consistency, coherence and strength and the case must be dismissed, but Maramwidze, on October 8 2012, filed an answering affidavit at the High Court, pouring scorn on this.

Two weeks later, the police attempted to arrest Warara for allegedly abusing the rape victim and her sister in August 2010, but the lawyer was set free when it became clear the claims were made-up.

On February 12 2013, Maramwidze continued with his appeal to the High Court, that the ZRP and AG be ordered to prosecute Kereke for raping the minor.

After some false starts, private prosecution was granted in late 2015.

But it took the Constitutional Court to achieve that as Tomana, kicking and squirming, was slapped with a three-month sentence for resisting orders by three courts to issue a private prosecution certificate.

The sentence was suspended on condition he issued the certificate, which he did for lack of choice.

At the same time, Kereke was also making court applications and counter-applications to resist both normal and private prosecution, but that came to nought once the certificate was issued.

Kereke first appeared in court on January 11 2016 to answer to the rape crime – six years after committing the crime. Harare Magistrate Noel Mupeiwa convicted him on July 10 2016.

He is serving time at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison even though he is challenging both sentence and conviction.

Lawyer Jessie Majome described the manner in which the AG’s office handled the Kereke rape case as “very pathetic and incompetent”.

“There is need to find out why there is a poor rate of conviction, and how many cases have been refused prosecution by the prosecutor general’s office. The public also needs to be educated about the duties of the prosecutor general’s office and how they can seek private prosecution,” she said.

Kereke has apologised to his former boss Gono and the government but not to his victims.

l This story was produced with assistance from the Information for Development Trust (IDT). TDT is a not-for-profit organisation that assists media houses to investigate issues in the public interes

Initially published by The Standard, the IDT media partner

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