Political violence has characterised the run up to the parliamentary by-election to be held in Kuwadzana over the weekend of 29 – 30 March 2003. The imposition of the unofficial curfew by ZANU PF supporters in Kuwadzana, following the death of ZANU PF member, Tonderai Mangwiro in a petrol bombing, has stepped up organised violence and torture in the area. A plethora of incidents have been recorded in the local press alleging that abductions, detentions, torture and inhuman treatment of opposition supporters by the police and CIO agents, at several police stations, are rife.
About thirty MDC members have claimed that they were abducted, detained, tortured and subjected to inhuman treatment by the police and CIO agents in Kuwadzana. In the same constituency, Fanuel Tsvangirayi, MDC Spokesman for Ward 38, together with Gift Marongedze, claim that they were unlawfully arrested by the police and detained at Goromonzi Police Station. Tsvangirai claims that bricks were tied to his testicles and live electric wires connected to his toes while the police officers forced him to disclose MDC plans for the Kuwadzana parliamentary by-election. Tonderai Mangwiro, a ZANU PF member, reportedly died from burns and severe head injuries he sustained when suspected MDC supporter’s petrol bombed a ZANU PF base in the area.
Barnabas Mangodza, Jameson Gadzirai, and Joseph Rose, Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) committee members, together with Richard Mudekwe, a Kuwadzana resident, were reportedly abducted and severely beaten for four hours by a group of suspected ZANU PF supporters. The four were subsequently arrested and detained overnight by the police on allegations of engaging in conduct ‘likely to cause a breach of the peace’. They however claim that they had gone to Kuwadzana for a meeting with the chairperson of the Kuwadzana Residents Association, but were apparently abducted by the militia before they were able to hold the meeting.
The torture of Job Sikhala, MDC MP for St. Mary’s constituency, Human Rights Lawyer Gabriel Shumba, his young brother Bishop Shumba, and MDC activists, Taurayi Magaya, and Charles Mutuma by the police in Chitungwiza, was condemned by both foreign and local human rights groups1 . They were charged with violating Section 15 of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), Zimbabwe’s legislation that contains repressive provisions in contravention of basic rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Sikhala, Shumba, Magaya and Mutuma claim that the police arrested and severely tortured them on allegations of wanting to topple the government through unconstitutional means. Sikhala and Shumba claim that they were both tortured and interrogated while electric wires were tied to their genitals and toes, with their hands and feet tied together. Harare magistrate Caroline Ann Chigumira, ruled that there was no legal basis on which to place Sikhala and the co-accused on remand and also that, because the document which formed the basis of the charge was alleged to be have been written under undue influence and duress, the co-accused had no case to answer.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum documented a second death emanating from political violence in the month of January, that of Samson Shawano Kombo, an MDC activist from Rusape. Kombo reportedly died following serious injuries sustained from torture at the hands of ZANU PF supporters and suspected war veterans.
Reports indicate that political violence is ongoing in other constituencies. KM of Murehwa claims that ZANU PF youths assaulted her and destroyed her home because her grandchildren support the opposition MDC. In Centenary, ZANU PF supporters allegedly burnt and destroyed JK’s house on allegations that he supports the MDC. He was also physically assaulted. In Guruve, TC claims that he was assaulted because he failed to do the ZANU PF slogan. In Pumula, war veterans have reportedly opened a base, which residents claim is being used as an illegal ZANU PF base, where members of the public are being subjected to torture as a form of punishment for perceived crimes. EC of Gokwe claims that his family was victimised by MDC youths because they supported the ZANU PF rallies in the area.
Judging from the cases recorded in the press and documented by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, political violence appears to have been on the increase in the month of January, with a substantial number of human rights abuses being recorded in Kuwadzana. The Human Rights Forum finds disturbing the sustained level of political violence and torture that has been prevalent since early 2000. In particular it is concerned with what appears to be frequent ineffective and selective prosecution of perpetrators, as was the case when those implicated in the beatings of the CHRA committee members were not brought to book and instead the CHRA committee members were arrested and detained overnight.