A MAN who allegedly instigated raids at Kudu Creek Camp in Ruwa that resulted in the arrest of three commercial farmers on allegations of recruiting and training bandits to topple President Robert Mugabe has been nabbed for swindling government of farming implements valued at US$35 100.
Joseph Banda has since appeared in court on charges of conniving with the Reserve Bank head of agricultural mechanisation and small-to-medium enterprises support division Mordecai Masakwa to steal a motor cycle, four generators, 15 knapsacks, a seed drill and five chains. Masakwa is still at large.
Banda is also facing allegations of impersonating a police officer by claiming to be a senior assistant commissioner in the Zimbabwe Republic Police, a security officer with the RBZ and a war veteran.
The state alleges that Banda and Masakwa between January 20 and February 20 went to Bak Storage in Harare and misrepresented that they had authority from central bank governor Gideon Gono to acquire the farm implements.Â Â Â
In January, Banda was alleged to have been the mastermind behind the raids at Kudu Creek – a Boy Scout camp – which resulted in the arrest of three commercial farmers, John Naested (57), Bryan Baxter (67) and Angus Thompson (53).
The three farmers were raided at around 2am on January 3 in a predawn swoop by about 370 policemen, CIO and army personnel, which included two helicopters and civilian vehicles”.
The state alleged that it had found various firearms in the possession of Naested and Baxter and that the three were recruiting MDC-T youths to undergo military training with the intention of committing acts of terrorism in the country.
Naested, Baxter and Thompson were last week set free by a Harare magistrate who said there was no reasonable suspicion that the trio committed an offence.
In a High Court bail application soon after the farmers were arrested, Baxter alleged that Banda was the leader of the raid at the camp, which was the fifth such in four years.
He said Banda had threatened him and ordered his family to vacate the farm so that he could take it over.
Baxter said on two occasions in 2008, Banda went to his house with a copy of a Government Gazette and an offer letter and asked him to vacate as he had been offered the plot and that the CIO wanted to use the house as its headquarters.
The farmer had to ask for assistance from governor Aeneas Chigwedere who advised him that the offer letter was false.
Since then, it was alleged, Banda employed violent means to take over Baxter’s plot, but failed.
The state had alleged that between February 2003 and January 2009 at Plot 16A, Gardener Road, Acturus, Goromonzi, Plot 13A and remainder of Lot 1 the farmers had “recruited and assisted or encouraged some MDC-T youths to undergo training with the intention of committing acts of insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism in Zimbabwe”.
However, defence lawyers said the weapons were not for military use, but sporting firearms and argued that the state could not explain when the alleged terrorists and bandits had been trained.
The state alleged that Baxter was responsible for transporting recruits from his farm where they were staying to Naested’s residence for training.
However, their lawyers said there were no boarding facilities at Baxter’s house.
“In fact it would have made more sense if the state had alleged that the recruits were sheltered at the 1st applicant’s (Naested’s) residence because that is the place where there are boarding facilities and guest houses for school children who would have gone out for camping,” the lawyers argued.
The applicants handed over to the police videos of activities that take place at the Naested plot as well as indemnity forms signed by parents of children from St John’s High, Sharon School, Bishopslea, Aril in Ruwa, Lilford in Nyabira, Lomagundi College, and Chisipite and Convent schools.
Some of the courses taken include leadership for 10 to 18-year-olds, rope courses, rock and mountain climbing, building courses, canoeing and tree identification.
BY WONGAI ZHANGAZHA