Thandekile Moyo, a Gwanda-based human rights defender, has revealed how Tawanda Muchehiwa’s abductors attempted to lure her into a trap using his phone.
Muchehiwa, a 22-year-old journalism student with the Midlands State University (MSU), was abducted by unknown gunmen outside a hardware shop in Bulawayo on 30 July, a day before planned anti-corruption protests.
The abductors who are suspected to be State agents used five cars to trail Muchehiwa and seized him while he was seated in his cousin’s car with Tendai Masotsha, the Bulawayo women’s chairperson of Zimbabwe’s main opposition, the MDC alliance.
Moyo said Muchehiwa was her book research assistant and had told her a few days earlier that he was being followed by unknown people. Moyo wrote for the Daily Maverick:
On Thursday morning, the day before the much anticipated 31 July protests, Tawanda and I discussed our plans for the protests.
He then disclosed to me that he had been talking to Samkeliso Tshuma, another activist. I was excited to hear that because I knew not many people would be brave enough to take to the streets.
Later that day I received information that Tawanda might have been arrested. Their cars had been seen parked outside Bulawayo central police station.
At around 5 pm, my phone rang. I checked the ID and it was Tawanda. But something was off; first of all, Tawanda and I mostly communicate with WhatsApp messages, secondly, we never “direct call” each other because we all know that our phone lines are bugged. We only call via WhatsApp.
Thirdly, Tawanda had been MIA all day, and we suspected he had been arrested, so if he was arrested, how was he calling me?
I then decided to answer the phone in case it was a distress call or some kind of SOS. I answered and asked him if he was okay, to which he said yes. He had the most bizarre thing to say. He told me “the posters” were ready and I should come and see them.
“What posters?” I asked.
He couldn’t explain. He said just come and see them. I then told him to let’s talk on WhatsApp. He protested that request and said his network was bad but I insisted and he had no choice but to agree.
A few seconds later I was on the phone with his uncle, Zimlive editor Mduduzi Mathuthu, to whom I relayed the information that Tawanda had called me and he shouted “Do not go. It’s a trap. They have Tawanda. The police are at my house as we speak.”
Never have I felt so defeated in my life.
I checked my phone and discovered several missed calls from Tawanda again, this time on WhatsApp. I knew it was a trap.
But I couldn’t talk to him. I don’t remember if I called him back or if he called but we spoke again. I asked him where he was and he responded with uncertainty.
I got the sense someone was telling him what to say. He sounded different, I could tell he was under duress. He was also addressing me in an uncharacteristically casual manner, flippantly – he’s usually so respectful, I can’t explain it but the whole conversation confirmed my worst fears, Tawanda had been abducted…