Central Intelligence Organisation

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Central Intelligence Organisation
Agency overview
Formed October 1963; 50 years ago (1963-10)
Preceding Agency British South Africa Police Special Branch, various
Jurisdiction Zimbabwe
Employees Restricted
Annual budget Not subject to audit[1]
Ministers responsible
Robert Mugabe[1]
Agency executives Happyton Bonyongwe, Director-General
Elias Kanengoni, Deputy Director-General
Parent agency Ministry of State Security

The Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) is the national intelligence agency or "secret police" of Zimbabwe.[2] It was conceived as the external intelligence-gathering arm of the British South Africa Police Special Branch in the early 1960s, under Southern Rhodesian prime minister Winston Field.[3]


The CIO was formed in Rhodesia on the instructions of Prime Minister Winston Field in 1963 at the dissolution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and took over from the Federal Intelligence and Security Bureau, which was a co-ordinating bureau analysing intelligence gathered by the British South Africa Police (BSAP) and the police forces of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

The first head of the CIO was Deputy Commissioner Ken Flower; during his tenure the BSAP Special Branch Headquarters were incorporated within the CIO, while the Special Branch retained its internal security function within the BSAP. The deputy head of the CIO, and eventual successor to Flower, was Danny Stannard [1]. His brother Richard Stannard, a former captain in the British Army Military Police, became the Director Military Intelligence (DMI) under Robert Mugabe. Richard, sometimes also known as "Slick," was, like Emmerson Mnangagwa, known to have been recruited by another foreign intelligence service[citation needed], initially, but not solely, in order to penetrate his former colleagues in BMATT, the British Army Training Team sent to assist in the formation of the new Zimbabwe National Army.

Prime Minister Mugabe kept Flower in the role of head of the CIO after majority rule in 1980, when the country's name changed to Zimbabwe. Flower had no more than a professional relationship with MI6 despite rumours that he had covertly and intermittently plotted with the British intelligence services to undermine Ian Smith's government. He had, however, an especially good professional relationship with Sir Dick Franks, the head of MI6 at the time, as he had with all the other main intelligence agencies.

In addition to the information contained in ZWE38448.E of 12 March 2002, and ZWE38050.E of 2 November 2001, media reports indicate that the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), ostensibly has powers of arrest and detention (AFP 1 Apr. 2002; Orlando Sentinel 29 Mar. 2002). The CIO is also allegedly known to perpetrate acts of violence against the political opposition (The Observer 3 Mar. 2002; Amnesty International 12 Mar. 2002).

Before the March 2002 election, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) reportedly complained that its leaders were being "constantly harassed, intimidated and detained by the CIO and the police" (The Star 15 Feb. 2002). The Star quotes the Zimbabwe Financial Gazette as alleging that "CIO agents from the counter-intelligence unit were working with Foreign Affairs Ministry officials to monitor the activities and movements of the international observers ahead of the critical two-day poll" (ibid.).

The Observer of 3 March 2002 reported that in 2000, an MDC "election agent, Tichoana Chiminya and another MDC activist, Talent Mabika, were burnt to death by a CIO officer called Joseph Mwale."

An Amnesty International Press Release of 12 March 2002 states that:

Several human rights sources in Zimbabwe have reported that police and security intelligence officers from the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) are targeting ZESN (Zimbabwe Election Support Network) monitors for harassment and detention under orders from superiors.

In March 2002, CIO agents reportedly arrested a Zimbabwean correspondent for London's Daily Telegraph, Peta Thornycroft, who had gone to Chimanimani (about 480 kilometres East of Harare to investigate election violence by the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), against the political opposition (AFP 1 Apr. 2002; Orlando Sentinel 29 Mar. 2002). Under the "new state security laws," she was expected "to face charges of incitement to violence and publishing of 'false statements likely to be prejudicial to state security'" (ibid.). Parliament reportedly passed "the public order and security bill ... by acclamation and not by formal vote" in January 2002 (The Guardian 10 Jan. 2002). These laws reportedly gave "sweeping powers to clamp down on the opposition" (ibid.). Peta Thornycroft was reportedly released by the police "on a High Court order after four nights in detention" (AFP 1 Apr. 2002).

No reports on the official mandate, policies and procedures of the CIO, and on what their uniforms look like, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

In recent years international human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have criticised the CIO's role in alleged internal repression, which is said on occasions to have involved torture.

In his book Serving Secretly, Flower complained about the undue influence of Irish Catholics in top positions during his early days in the BSA Police. He thought that this matter had been resolved in the late 1940s after a commission of enquiry. The Commissioner of Police at the time Mugabe became Prime Minister, most of the other top police officers were Catholic and Irish or had strong Irish connections.