A manhunt is reportedly underway. The man had complained of losing his livelihood in the DRC after SABOT, a company believed to be linked to President Robert Mugabe, grabbed his land at Kasumbalesa in the Katanga Province to build a warehouse.
The CIO allegedly tortured Tsohuka Cosnova Ben, 38, for four days after abducting him at a road block on January 29, 2015 as he was on his way to Harare to buy items for his Tongogara Refugee Camp tuck-shop.
Ben, together with 17 other refugees, was travelling in an 18-seater mini-bus. They had been authorised to leave the camp and had gate passes and Temporary Refugee Permits with them (documents shown to The Zimbabwean).
“After the police manning the road block had stopped the mini-bus, two men in plain clothes ordered the passengers to identify themselves. Ben, a church pastor, was later instructed to follow the CIO officers to a tent pitched by the road block. This was the last time we saw him,” said a highly placed source at the refugee centre.
Ben was driven to an unidentified house where he was blindfolded and his hands were tied before the torture ordeal started. Sources said the torture involved inserting objects into his anus, electric shocking, drenching in water, no food save for a sour drink and denial of access to toilet facilities for four days.
“The CIO accused Ben of incriminating Mugabe in the DRC land wrangle and suggested that his behaviour would demean the head of state. They told him they would surrender him to Kabila and he would meet his fate ‘as you seem not aware that Zimbabwe and the DRC are close allies’.”
“He was threatened with deportation to the mercy of DRC President, Joseph Kabila, who also wanted to persecute Ben for not buying his (Kabila)’s political ideology since 2009. Since Ben had sustained serious injuries during the torture, the CIO operatives sought medical treatment for him before carrying out their threat of deportation,” another source at Tongogara said.
The CIO, according to the source, called in a nurse before transporting Ben to a private clinic believed to be far away from both Mutare and Harare. After five days at the clinic, a sympathetic CIO agent advised Ben to flee, since deportation to DRC would land him in the hands of Kabila’s security agents who would kill him.
Before coming to Zimbabwe Ben had been arrested by the Kabila administration on trumped up charges believed to be politically motivated. He was forced to eat food laced with poison at a private government torture base’s holding cells where some of the victims died.
The Kabila government had arrested Ben and detained him in prison several times, for allegedly occupying the land that was later parcelled to SABOT by Kabila’s brothers and a Belgian national, contractor Pierre Bastin.
After the land was forcibly taken away from Ben, his security guard was shot dead by Kabila’s special army, popularly known as GSSP.
Ben’s family including the wife, three children and a sister in-law, were abducted in the process and remain unaccounted for.
Police and Tongogara Refugee Camp sources told The Zimbabwean that a manhunt for Ben had been mounted, as government and CIO want him silenced before he exposes the involvement of “Mugabe’s company” in the DRC.
There are over 8,000 refugees at Tongogara camp and there have been several reports of mysterious disappearances of inmates suspected to be of ‘wrong political affiliation’ – especially those from the DRC.
Many Rwandese at the centre who fear repatriation to Rwanda are adopting Congolese identities at the camp, as those deported back would be killed by the Rwandese authorities for ‘betraying the government’.
Male, female and children refugees at Tongogara are from the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Malawi, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Tanzania.