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John Doe Bomb Threat: South African Man Arrested

Alert Zimbabwean security personnel arrested a 26-year-old South African man ‘John Doe’ suspected to be the sender of a bomb threat alert that triggered travel turmoil last Friday, which also forced President Emmerson Mnangagwa to abandon his Victoria Falls trip mid-flight.

President Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba confirmed the development saying: “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.

According to online sources, 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.

Also Read: Police uncover identity of Vic Falls bomb threat ‘John Doe’

In 2020, Govender had his left hand amputated due to injuries he sustained during an armed robbery.

According to those familiar with the inquiry, he told Zimbabwean law enforcement that the blue suitcase he brought to the airport, in which the bullets were discovered, was the same one he used on his way to the shooting range after purchasing a gun to defend himself. He said that he must have forgot to take the bullets out.

Govender stated that on February 26, he took a plane to Zimbabwe for a week-long visit to supervise a money transfer business where he serves as general manager. This was his first visit to this country.

On March 2, he was brought to the Harare Magistrates Court and appeared before magistrate Sharon Rakafa without an attorney.

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.”

John Doe sends bomb 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 [email protected] 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 bombs, but authorities have tightened security at the country’s airports, including stopping access to terminal buildings for non-travelers.

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


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