A Chiredzi-based journalist, has appeared at the Chiredzi Magistrates Courts facing a charge of stealing a classified document from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Law and Order office at Chiredzi Police Station.

Patrick Chitongo, who runs Lowveld Checkpoint, an online publication, is alleged to have committed the crime in August 2019.

His case failed to kick off on Wednesday after some of the police officers who were supposed to be State witnesses failed to turn up.

Chitongo, who is being represented by human rights lawyer Ross Chavi, was advised that the matter would proceed by way of summons.

It is the State’s case that in August 2019, Chitongo broke into a building at Chiredzi Police Station and stole the document before leaking it on social media.

The leaked document showed that the Joint Operations Command (JOC), which comprises the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), Police Internal Security and Intelligence, and Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services Intelligence, formed a 24-hour Ferret team, which monitored movements of key MDC members they suspected of being involved in planning acts of banditry during and after the MDC Alliance August 2019 demonstrations.

In the document, some of the members, who were suspected to be working in cahoots with a 23-member MDC youth vanguard based in South Africa to unleash acts of subversion, including Chitongo himself, Chiredzi town chairperson Gibson Hwende, former MDC Zaka West MP Festus Dumbu, ward 18 councillor Gilbert Mutubuki, Menias Gangata, the Premier Service Medical Aid Society administrator in Chiredzi, and James Kampota, the MDC Alliance district chairperson.

According to the leaked report, the Ferret Team received information on August 8, 2019 that a 23-member gang would enter Chiredzi town from South Africa using undesignated entry points.

The team even proposed that a roadblock be set up at Mkwasine-Tanganda junction to monitor every entry point into Chiredzi.

Part of the report gleaned by the NewsDay, which was allegedly compiled by one Inspector Ncube and Constable Ndiripo from Police Internal Security and Intelligence read: “The vanguards were to use three 4×4 double cabs with unspecified number plates armed with RS rifles, pistols and AK-47 rifles, some of which were stolen from the South African Police Service (SAPS).

“Furthermore, the number of weapons and ammunition were not specified though intended to be used during the demonstrations. The FT also gathered that the vanguard team was to be received and housed by Menias Gangata, Patrick Chitongo, Festus Dumbu, Gibson Hwende, Gilbert Mutubuki, James Kampota and Sisokisi, whose details were yet to be established.

“The Ferret Team is privy to the information from contacts that the MDC’s intelligence wing was seized with identifying insecured (sic) government properties.

“Furthermore, it was noted with great concern that same were identifying and profiling all security agents in Chiredzi as they are part of targets in order to weaken and embarrass the government.”

When JOC members started looking for Chitongo, he went into hiding before resurfacing weeks later, leading to his arrest. -News Day