Zimbabwean police have enlisted the services of the international police organisation (Interpol) seeking the arrest and extradition of Johannesburg-based property magnate, Frank Buyanga.
The African Medallion Group millionaire, 40, is accused of abducting his five-year-old son, but the businessman accuses President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his family of employing the police and other state security arms to target him in what he called a “political ploy”.
Police Commissioner General Tandabantu Godwin Matanga made the Interpol disclosure while opposing Buyanga’s application seeking a stay of execution of an April 16 judgment which gave him 24 hours to return the child to its mother, Chantelle Muteswa.
“The applicant has approached this honourable court with dirty hands… It will be an affront to the justice delivery system for this honourable court to entertain a fugitive from justice like the applicant,” Matanga said in an affidavit filed ahead of a High Court court hearing on Thursday.
Buyanga and Muteswa, his ex-girlfriend, have been embroiled in a bitter custody battle for several years. Each side claims legal custody of the boy who was living with Buyanga since July 2019, before his mother took him from school without notice to Buyanga on March 11.
Buyanga filed a police report accusing Muteswa of abducting the child, but he claimed police did nothing. He snatched the boy from a parked vehicle in a movie-style operation on March 26, and his lawyers say he left the country with the child a day later.
Matanga has told the High Court that “Interpol has been invoked to assist in locating both the applicant and minor child outside this jurisdiction.”
Buyanga denies wrongdoing and has in turn written to Interpol, accusing Zimbabwean authorities of lodging a “toxic, politically-motivated request.”
The businessman has previously fired off a flurry of letters to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, the Judicial Services Commission and the Human Rights Commission accusing members of the Mnangagwa family of meddling in his custody dispute, including making over a dozen inappropriate calls to the judge who heard his case, Justice Jacob Manzunzu.
Buyanga claims one of Mnangagwa’s sons, Collins, is in a romantic relationship with Muteswa, and that the first family has abused its authority to interfere with the work of the police and the judiciary to tilt the odds in Muteswa’s favour.
ZimLive understands that Mnangagwa’s aides have recently asked the Attorney General’s office to investigate the possibility of seizing Buyanga’s assets, in an escalation which now touches Zanu PF’s factional politics.
“The level the issue has now reached is far more political than just a custody issue,” a source in the Attorney General’s office said. “The Police Commissioner was under a lot of pressure to depose an affidavit in this particular matter, yet he has dozens of other matters before the courts where he has not. The interest is in Buyanga, not the child, and a lot of it has to do with his perceived links with Vice President (Constantino) Chiwenga.”
In their letter to Interpol, Buyanga’s lawyers wrote: “It is Frank Buyanga Sadiq’s considered view that the request to place him on Interpol Red Notice is a political ploy disguised as a tool to try and combat crime in Zimbabwe.”
The lawyers argue that he was never arrested nor charged with a crime until he had left the country, insisting that the request for his arrest is a “perfect example of the abuse of the Red Notice mechanism by political hawks who target their perceived political opponents who might be of the firm view that the politics of the country could have been managed in a different and better manner than the current political order.”
“Buyanga therefore urges you to vigorously scrutinise the request in question and get as much information as possible before making a decision on the request,” his lawyers asked Interpol.
“He never appeared before any criminal court to answer to these allegations. Buyanga contends that he is considered a political opponent by those who control the levers of power because of his stance against corruption and gross abuse of power being perpetrated by those who occupy the political office and their family members as well as associates.”
In a landmark judgement, the High Court last month gave Buyanga and Muteswa joint custody and guardianship of the child – but she immediately appealed to the Supreme Court. Justice Manzunzu, in his order of April 16, ordered Buyanga to surrender the child to Muteswa until the determination of the Supreme Court appeal.
Buyanga argues, meanwhile, that he has a Children’s Court judgement which gave him custody last year when Muteswa became of no fixed aboard after she and her father were evicted from a house they shared. The court granted Buyanga temporary custody while appropriate alternative accommodation was sought.