Latest News Editor's Choice


News / National

Zimbabwe says man who sent out airport bomb warning on e-mail arrested

by Staff reporter
04 Mar 2024 at 18:34hrs | Views
Zimbabwe's presidency on Monday confirmed the arrest of a 26-year-old South African man alleged to be the sender of an email which caused travel chaos last Friday, including forcing President Emmerson Mnangagwa to abandon a trip to Victoria Falls mid-flight.

George Charamba, the spokesman for Mnangagwa, said "our security services have traced the so-called John Doe to one Cuan Reed Govender."

"In the interests of ongoing operations, we leave it at that for now. We thank Zimbabweans for remaining calm while operations are underway. We hope to reach closure very soon," Charamba wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

ZimLive understands Govender, of Elizabeth Avenue in the Durban neighbourhood of Molkwood, was arrested on March 2 at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport after X-Ray scanners detected five bullets in his luggage. He was about to board an Airlink flight to Johannesburg.

Govender's left hand was amputated in 2020 after injuries sustained during an armed robbery.

He has told Zimbabwean investigators that the blue bag he carried to the airport, in which the bullets were found, was the same one he used when going to the shooting range after buying a gun to defend himself, according to people familiar with the investigation. He said he must have forgotten to remove the bullets.

Govender said he flew to Zimbabwe on February 26 on a week-long visit to oversee a money transfer business in which he is the general manager. It was his first trip to the country.

He was taken to the Harare Magistrates Court on March 2 where he appeared without a lawyer before magistrate Sharon Rakafa, who remanded him to March 4 for plea recording.

Mnangagwa aborted landing in Victoria Falls last Friday and his private jet returned to Harare after authorities were warned of a "credible bomb or firearm threat."

The warning was emailed to regional airline Fastjet at 8.10AM on the same day, about two hours before Mnangagwa was due to land.

An Air Zimbabwe Boeing 737 spent several hours on the tarmac with its passengers from Bulawayo still onboard, while Kenya Airways flight KQ792, due to land at the airport, circled over Victoria Falls for several minutes before it diverted to Livingstone Airport in Zambia.

The warning, sent from email anonmilitiazw@gmail.com by someone identifying as John Doe, carried the subject: ‘Threat BUQ VFA!!!!!!' BUQ is the airport code for Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo, while VFA stands for Victoria Falls Airport.

"Credible bomb/firearms threat boarding AirZim BUQ to VFA 1 March 24 and other flights that day," the email began.

"Was part of the operation but could not go through with it myself. Targets are flights and the conference in VFA. They know I have absconded so flight dates may change but original plan was tomorrow. Have armed militia already in VFA staying at N1 and Shearwater Explorers Village, may have moved already. Some armed colleagues and bombs already in Vic Falls. Threat is imminent, alert authorities immediately."

A sweep of the Air Zimbabwe plane and the airport did not turn up any bomb, but authorities have tightened security at the country's airports, including stopping access to terminal buildings for non-travellers.

It remains unclear if the bomb alert was a hoax. If indeed Govender is the John Doe, questions will be asked how viable the threat ever was and his role in it given his physical disability with the missing hand.

Source - zimlive