The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) welcomes the judgment by the High court of Zimbabwe judge, the late Justice Karwi in the matter of Nyasha Gutsire vs Mathew Makanyanga and Nicholas Matsivira HH290-11 Mr. Gutsire, a victim of the 2008 electoral violence was awarded damages of US$3000 for shock, pain and suffering, contumelia and unlawful arrest and detention, which he suffered at the hands of the defendants who are ZANU PF activists from Nyanga. The Forum received the judgment on 24 April 2014 following the filing of the claim for damages on behalf of Mr. Gutsire in 2009 and the subsequent hearing which was concluded in October 2011.
Mr. Gutsire was abducted by ZANU PF activists Mathew Makanyanga, the chairman for ward 32 and Nicholas Matsivire, district youth chairman for Nyanga on 22 June 2008. The two, after interrogating Mr. Gutsire on his political affiliation, accused him of supporting the then opposition MDC. The two defendants later took Mr. Gutsire to a ZANU PF base at Nyanga Community Hall, Nyamhuka Business Centre where they handed him over to a group of ZANU PF supporters. There, Mr. Gutsire was assaulted indiscriminately all over his body with logs and suffered particular injuries to his feet and eyes which persist to this day. He was also forced to sit too close to a fire, which aggravated his pain and injuries. The violence Mr. Gutsire suffered at the hands of ZANU PF supporters was widespread in Zimbabwe during that time and targeted mainly opposition supporters.
In passing the ruling the court particularly noted that that there was political violence in Nyanga at the given time and that the defendants, who were staunch ZANU PF supporters believed that “……. subjecting members of the opposition to the type of treatment meted out by the plaintiff was permissible…….and thought it was their duty to ill treat members of the opposition the way they did”. The 2nd defendant in particular, the court noted, ‘was not shy to boast about the violence’ and indicated before the court that they would do it again. In addition, the court noted that whilst the two were not directly responsible for the assault, they shared that common design with the individuals who directly assaulted Mr. Gutsire by facilitating the commission of the delict. This is so because the defendants handed over Mr. Gutsire to the ZANU PF group at the base who eventually assaulted him. By inputting liability to the defendants for Mr. Gutsire’s injuries, the court adopted the doctrine of common purpose which is more common in criminal matters.
As one of the few cases from the 2008 violence to have gone through a full civil trial, the ruling is remarkable in that it does not only give a chilling account of how individuals and societies were traumatised by the violence, but also demonstrates the judiciary’s attitude of thorough displeasure, complete disdain and out right rejection of the use of violence in resolving conflicts.
Nyasha Gutsire’s case represents many victims who still endure the nerve wrecking effects of the 2008 violence but have not been able to access justice and ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable, due to a wide range of factors, including among others lack of confidence in the responsible institutions and fear of retribution. It is hoped that through isolated court rulings such as this one the Government will see reason in the urgent need of constituting the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission and ensuring post conflict justice, healing and reconciliation in Zimbabwe.