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South African man accused of Zimbabwe bomb threat speaks out

Cuan Reed Govender, 25, claims he was used as a scapegoat by Zimbabwean government

DURBAN, South Africa – A Durban man who was falsely accused by Zimbabwean authorities of sending a bomb threat is back home in eManzimtoti after being deported.

Cuan Reed Govender, 25, was arrested on March 1 at the boarding gates of the Robert Mugabe International Airport. Airport scanners had detected five rounds of live ammunition in his bag.

Speaking to the POST this week, Govender said he spent six days in a Zimbabwean prison.

The father of one said he began working remotely for a company in Zimbabwe, as its general manager in July 2023. This was his first trip to the country for work and he did not know the bullets were in his bag, Govender said.

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“This was my first time in an aeroplane. I was meant to spend a week in Zimbabwe for business. I did not realise that the suitcase I was carrying had bullets in one of the compartments. At the airport in South Africa, they did not detect the bullets so it came as a surprise to me when scanners picked up the bullets at the airport in Zimbabwe.

“At the time of my arrest, I complied with officials and explained that it was a mistake on my part. I knew I had to face the consequences. I was taken to a holding cell,” he said.

Govender said he spent the night in a holding cell and made his first appearance on March 2 at the Harare Magistrate’s Court where he pleaded guilty to being in unlawful possession of ammunition.

At the time of his arrest, he did not know that the Zimbabwe authorities had linked him with a ‘John Doe’ who had sent an email of a bomb/firearm alert on March 1, which had exposed a plan to attack Zimbabwe’s airports and forced the temporary closure of Victoria Falls International Airport.

“I spent the weekend in prison, waiting to appear in court on Monday for sentencing. During this time, I was visited by a few people, who told me that I was being linked to sending a bomb threat. I was shocked as this was never mentioned to me in court and I did not understand what was going on,” he said.

When he reappeared in court on Monday, Govender represented himself and took full responsibility for being in possession of the bullets, knowing that they belonged to him and he had “made an honest mistake”.

“On Monday evening, I was told that I could pay a fine of $300 (R5 700) or spend four months in prison. I paid the fine but was still kept imprisoned until Wednesday (March 6).

“I felt trapped and concerned as I had still not been told by the courts or police about the bomb threat case. I was just told that the story was circulating on social media,” he said.

Govender remained imprisoned until he was deported.

He claimed he was never confronted or questioned about the bomb threat, even after his release. This, despite his name being circulated widely on social media by Zimbabwean authorities, linking him to the bomb threat.

“The false information delayed my departure. The fact that I had to be deported will affect my life. I assume that it was a case of the government not doing their work and proper investigations.

“There was no link to me, but the authorities used me as a scapegoat to make themselves look good.

“I was a foreigner in their country and it was easy to blame me, without charging me or conducting thorough investigations.

“They could not prove that there was a link between me and the email sender, John Doe,” he said.

Govender added that he was not ready for the ‘social media storm’ resulting from being linked to sending a bomb threat.

“The false stories have affected my life, job and reputation. But, it also exposed the legal system and how they can get things wrong. I am traumatised.

“Conditions in the prison were inhumane – with no water or sanitation. I am an amputee, so the circumstances of my stay in prison was worse due to my physical challenges. I thank my family and friends for supporting me during this time,” he said. 

The Post.

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