One of the vehicles used by state security agents in the abduction of Tawanda Muchehiwa, the nephew of ZimLive editor Mduduzi Mathuthu, was hired from a Harare car rental company, ZimLive can reveal.
The white Ford Ranger was returned to Impala Car Rental in Harare on August 6 with a damaged suspension and tyres, the vehicle’s owner confirmed.
Private vehicle owners supply Impala for onward leasing.
Muchehiwa, 22, was grabbed from a parked vehicle outside a hardware shop in Bulawayo on July 30 and driven to an unknown destination where he was tortured over three days, suffering life-threatening damage to his kidneys and bodily injuries.
Muchehiwa confirmed the vehicle was driven off road into the bush where he was brutalised, which would explain the damage to the tyres and suspension. He was dumped just before midnight on August 1 after a judge gave police 72 hours to produce him.
His captors accused Muchehiwa – a second year journalism student at the Midlands State University – of involvement in the planning of anti-government protests that were planned for July 31.
State agents also launched a raid on the home of Mathuthu, but found him not there. A search and seizure warrant said they were looking for “subversive materials”. It allowed them to search the journalist’s home and workplace and seize laptops and other electronic gadgets.
ZimLive this week obtained CCTV footage of the abduction, which showed Muchehiwa being abducted by armed men who forced him into an Isuzu. The vehicle drove a few hundred meters and then he was transferred to the Ranger, which had the rear number plate removed.
During the same incident, two other nephews of Mathuthu were taken by men driving an Altezza sedan and taken to Bulawayo Central Police Station – confirming that the abductors were working with the police.
The Ranger’s front number plate – AES 2433 – is visible from the CCTV. It led us to the vehicle’s owner in Ruwa, just outside Harare.
“The vehicle is on hire through Impala and I was not driving it (during the abduction),” the man, whose identity we are withholding, said on Friday.
“I understand it was returned to Impala on August 6 with badly damaged tyres and needing attention on the suspension. It went for repairs and I only got it back on August 25. I have again sent it back to Impala this morning for a new contract.”
He said he was “disturbed” to learn that his vehicle had been used in an abduction, and prayed for Muchehiwa’s speedy recovery.
Impala owner Thompson Dodo confirmed they hired out the vehicle in late July for six days.
“Unfortunately, your enquiry involves personal information. What I can tell you is that the vehicle was hired out to a regular client. We would be much more comfortable sharing that information with the police,” Dodo said.
Both Dodo and the vehicle’s registered owner confirmed that police were yet to contact them – two days after we released the video of the abduction clearly showing the vehicle’s number plate.
Impala confirms ownership of abduction car, see the statement from the car rental company below:
Following a social media video clip which implicates one of our rental vehicles (Registration No. AES 2433) in an alleged abduction for Tawanda Muchehiwa in Bulawayo, Impala Car Rental would like to advise all our valued stakeholders that we are really concerned with this matter.
As a service provider, we are limited in controlling where and how our vehicles will be used because clients are not obliged to disclose their vehicle hiring purposes. It is very possible that some clients may use our vehicles for criminal activities without our knowledge & it is not our intention to cover up for such criminals.
As Impala Car Rental we stand obligated to cooperate with any investigations by the Law Enforcement Agents into this matter so that Tawanda Muchehiwa gets justice.
We would like to assure all our stakeholders that Impala Car Rental remains committed to providing the best service possible at all times!
Chief Executive Officer
29 August 2020