In a case before the High Court of Zimbabwe, the national army has been implicated for and found guilty of attacking civilians with impunity. The case centered on 41-year-old Joseph Mutsotso, a Harare man represented by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum’s Public Interest Unit, who sued the Minister of Defense for compensation after being severely assaulted by members of the national army. On 28 November 2012 Justice Mathonsi delivered his judgment on the matter and condemned the army’s unlawful conduct.
Acting under the accusation that Mutsotso tried to unseat President Mugabe by unlawful means during a strike organized by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, army members unlawfully broke into his family’s residence on the night of 3 June 2003 and began to brutally assault his wife. Mutsotso became the next target of violence and suffered broken ribs and fingers in a beating that reportedly lasted approximately 30 minutes. The members of the army left the residence only after assuming he was dead.
During the case, Justice Mathonsi dismissed key witness Major Enock Chivhima’s claims that the assailants were defectors, stating that “it is difficult to accept that these were defectors because if they were, the army would have been quick to neutralize them and bring them to book.” Mutsotso was awarded compensation of US$726 for shock, pain and suffering and US$121 for embarrassment endured while being beaten in full view of his family, neighbours and strangers.
The Forum welcomes the court’s decision as the court continues to fight impunity and seek justice and accountability on behalf of victims of organised violence and torture.