Central Intelligence Organisation
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|Annual budget||Not subject to audit|
|Parent agency||Ministry of State Security|
The Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) is the national intelligence agency or "secret police" of Zimbabwe. 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.
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 . 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, 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. The Central Intelligence Organisation otherwise known as the CIO is an arm of the Zimbabwe security sector whose line of work is inherently classified. For a very long time the organisation and its operations have ignited public debate and fueled speculation.
Happyton Bonyongwe is the head of the CIO and is referred to as a director general. He is deputised by Aaron Nhepera. The intelligence organisation consists of nine key branches which include internal, external, counter-intelligence, military intelligence, training, close security unit, technical, administration and another simply known as branch six. The other directors who come immediately after Bonyongwe head these other branches. The directors are duty bound to report directly to the President thereby effectively bypassing the minister of defence. Immediately under the directors are deputy directors, assistant directors, provincial intelligence officers, district intelligence officers, senior intelligence officers, assistant senior intelligence officers and ordinary-level intelligence officers.
The function of the organisation is to provide high level security to the state from threats both within and outside Zimbabwe. The organisation also offers high level security to high ranking government officials like the President, various government employees like ministers and diplomats working in and outside Zimbabwe. Regionally the organisation works with other Intelligence organisations from other African countries under a regional body called Central Intelligence and Security Services of Africa CISSA to tackle problems that threaten the stability of the continent and hamper development like terrorism and extremism.
Human rights abuses and malpractices
There have been numerous reports of gross human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the organisation which range from unlawful abductions, torturing of civilians at undisclosed locations among others. Some of the specific incidents in which the Intelligence organisation was fingered include the attack on Nelson Chamisa at the Harare International Airport, the brief disappearance of former ZBC News host Jestina Mukoko and the abductions of Zimbabweans living in South Africa.It is also accused for the abduction of Itai Dzamara a Zimbabwean activist. These are some allegations that have been leveled against the organisation in the media. There were also unconfirmed reports linking the Central Intelligence Organisation to the closure of Zimweb Internet in December 2001 and the looting of Diamonds at the Marange Diamond fields among other malpractices.
Applying for a job in the organisation is not public knowledge like other arms of the Zimbabwe security sector like the police or the army. It has been proposed that they recruit people with preexisting links and others have even proposed that the process of recruitment is a long process in which the one being recruited is researched on to verify their suitability to the job. There have reports linking the organisation with Midlands State University in which the organisation was said to be targeting University graduates for their recruitment sessions, Matebeleland is also one of the alleged ares in which the recruitment sessions are said to have taken place in recent years.
- Has Mugabe violated the constitution?
- Off Budget CIO funding threatens democracy
- Security Forces
- Zimbabwe: The Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), including its structure and branches and whether its members commit human rights abuses. And if so, the branch which is involved, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Published: November 2, 2001, Retrieved: June 24, 2014
- Isidore Guvamombe CISSA: When the Ides of March woke up a continent, The Herald, Published: April 23, 2013, Retrieved: June 25, 2014
- Hope, Nelson Chamisa attacked by CIO agents at Harare International Airport, Sokwanele, Published: March 18, 2007, Retrieved: June 25, 2014
- University Graduates Main Target Of CIO Recruitment, Voice of the People, Published: February 26, 2011, Retrieved: 24 June 2014