A Zimbabwean ex-secret police officer who murdered for President Robert Mugabe’s regime has entered New Zealand on a fake passport and is trying to set up a life here.
William Nduku, his tribal name, arrived in New Zealand in 2015. Living in limbo, he was refused asylum or the right to work and study and has been forced to survive on handouts from friends and the expat community and could face death if deported back to Zimbabwe.
On arrival to New Zealand, the 31-year-old said he immediately informed Immigration New Zealand that he’d entered the country under an assumed identity and was seeking asylum.
He said at 19, he was forced to serve in Mugabe’s secret police and participated in up to 20 murders, several rapes and multiple tortures.
He escaped Zimbabwe more than a decade ago saying his life was as risk, now he wants to start life anew in New Zealand.
Nduku spent several months in Mt Eden prison. While in prison he alleged members of the Mongrel Mob assaulted him on a regular basis.
“It was awful. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anybody.”
His name is known to Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, who said he was prevented from discussing the case due to privacy.
A spokesperson for Woodhouse said he stood by all decisions made in relation to this case.
Nduku said he had been living off the generosity of others in Auckland, forced to try and make a living without the right to work.
He admitted to doing odd jobs for cash and even working for a fibre company for several months, who he claimed had underpaid him because of his status.
“It sometimes feels like the Government wants me to steal so that I can survive. I will never take anything that does not belong to me.”
“I once stole a mango out of hunger, and my mother gave me such a beating for it. My mother raised us right.”
Zimbabwe is known for the Mugabe leadership, characterised by rigged elections and the extreme violence meted out by his secret police and the central intelligence organisation in order to crush dissent.
Nduku said he was indoctrinated into this system from an early age. He said he had been forced to join Mugabe’s forces. Born into a life of poverty, he had to scavenge for food and had been unable to get proper access to education.
He lost both his parents and an older sister to HIV/AIDs, he said.
Once in the forces, he was trained in how to torture a person for information.
He recalled being told to drive a car into a large lake.
When they got into the car they found a bag of cement, and soon after realised that somebody was tied-up in the boot.
“Someone was watching us. We could see the glint of binoculars in the distance and it made us nervous. The man in the boot was badly beaten and disfigured. We ended up mixing the cement and pouring it into the boot with him.
“But we never locked the boot as we drove the vehicle into the lake. I guess we hoped it would give the man a fighting chance to try and escape.”
Nduku turned his back and walked away that day, never knowing whether the man survived.
While he had to witness and practice atrocities, he said he also saved lives, he claimed he always offered money from his own pocket to people who were earmarked for torture to aid their escape.
Nduku said it took two years as part of the secret police to realise he would be killed like many of his peers if he didn’t escape Zimbabwe.
He managed to escape to Namibia before he crossed the border into South Africa, where he spent almost a decade.
He alleged that he was illegally handed over to Zimbabwe, but that he’d managed to escape on the Zimbabwean side before members of the Zanu-PF party loyal to Mugabe could pick him up.
“I would simply have disappeared had they found me there,” he added.
He managed to return to South Africa where he ended up buying a fake ID for R15,000 (NZ$1,500). This allowed him to apply for a South African passport.
Human rights attorney Deborah Manning, who represents Nduku, has tried and failed to convince New Zealand’s Government to issue him a work or student visa.
A controversial case, due to Nduku having admitted crime, Executive Director of Amnesty International New Zealand Grant Bayldon said the case was difficult to comment on.
“Despite the nature of this case, the New Zealand Government must ensure a fair process to address his claims, along with a commitment to do so quickly.”
Immigration lawyer Simon Laurent said the Government were not obliged to issue a visa if asylum or refugee status has been declined to a person.
“It might be the case that he is in limbo because our Government is doing nothing because he came over on a fake passport from a third country. They might just not be able to find his real travel documents.”
However, he said usually if somebody had been declined refugee or asylum status they would be deported.
Nduku said he was desperately keen to get on with a life here and he wanted to study.
He was confident he would be able to eventually gain the right to work in New Zealand.
“Speak to me again in eight years and I’ll have my PHD. I just want the chance to make something of myself.”
Additional reporting, Kate Shuttleworth – Stuff