By Kenneth Matimaire
Mutare, November 17, 2016 – THE US government came very close to a military invasion of Zimbabwe in 2002 after the latter’s security had gunned down an American tourist in the southern African country’s territory.
This was revealed by the director of Pathology in Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Maxwell Hove during a recent Coroner’s Office Bill consultation meeting in the city.
The 54 year-old American tourist was shot by a military sniper manning a roadblock in conjunction with the police at a security roadblock situated at the Prince of Wales View along the Mutare/Vumba Road on November 11, 2002.
The incident sparked tension between Harare and Washington with the then George Bush led administration said to have seen the incident as an opportunity to invade Zimbabwe.
According to State controlled reports then, the tourist, who was identified as an American lecturer, was driving a Toyota Corolla with an outdated temporary import permit.
A misunderstanding arose, with reports indicating that the American tourist tried to over-run the roadblock and was shot in the process. He later died at a local hospital.
Security forces also confirmed then that police only fired two shots, one hitting the left rear wheel and another going through the rear number plate and believed to have hit the slain American national on the left side of his shoulder.
The incident happened just after was after US government had imposed targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe, through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) of 2001.
However, fresh details emerging indicate otherwise as the American body was found to have had multiple bullet holes all over. The same was observed on the wreckage of his vehicle.
Government, which recently opened up on the highly classified case indicated that they had to handle the case in a manner that would not lead Americans to order military invasion in the country.
Hove, who conducted the autopsy, said the report could have led to an invasion of Zimbabwe if it was badly handled.
Dr Hove said the wreckage of the car and body of the deceased was covered in multiple bullet holes as opposed to earlier reports.
He said fears of an American military invasion were high as the autopsy report would eventually have landed on Bush’s desk.
“In 2002, it nearly happened. American bombs nearly dropped here (Zimbabwe),” said Dr Hove while narrating the incident.
“This incident happened a year after George Bush had been elected and we were having problems with the Americans. They wanted to send planes here. In fact they wanted to bring planes to drop food here and you know an American gets shot when they were preparing to drop food. They now wanted to drop everything,” he said in reference to bombs.
Dr Hove said he received calls from both the then Minister of Health Dr David Parirenyatwa and another from the US Embassy after government had appointed him to carry out the autopsy report.
He further indicated that the matter had to be handled behind closed doors as the media could have blown the matter out of proportion.
“I discovered that there were holes everywhere (all over the body of the deceased) and we had to know whether they were bullets… And I discovered that indeed they were bullets. Multiple shots on his chest and fragments here and there, and this was critical evidence that was required in the report.
“And I knew that the affidavit (autopsy report) was going to be produced in the report that was going straight to George Bush’s desk. And I knew exactly the format of that report, how it is was supposed to look like because I knew if I didn’t do it that way, bombs were going to drop on us,” said Dr Hove.
He went on to reveal that the tourist was visiting his brother in Old Mutare when the unfortunate incident occurred.