Disturbing incidents of violence and gross human rights violations have been documented in the month of March, indicative that the human-rights situation in Zimbabwe is deteriorating critically. The bulk of these incidents surrounded two events: the mass stayaway from 18 to 19 March 2003 and the 2 parliamentary by-elections in Highfield and Kuwdzana constituencies in Harare. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum strongly condemns all forms of violence regardless of which quarter they originate. The Human Rights Forum condemns torture on the basis of political affiliation or on any other basis. The Human Rights Forum equally deplores implementation of violence by all political parties as a means of garnering support or of expressing discontent.
The majority of cases occurred during and following the stay-away called for by the main opposition party MDC. There is no justification for any of the incidents that occurred. There is an obligation on Government to ensure that torture is not unleashed on its citizens by State Security Agents. There are equal obligations on political parties to restrain their supporters from committing acts of violence against those hold divergent views from them. Furthermore individuals also have a duty to desist from committing violent actions against each other.
The vast majority of the human rights violations documented this month included the use of torture by state agents, those specifically alleged to have been involved being the army and police, who used violence and torture as a means of investigating, as a means of locating a person suspected of committing an offence and as a means of obtaining a confession from the real or perceived perpetrator of a crime. The majority of the victims identified their assailants as people who were dressed in Zimbabwe National Army and Zimbabwe Republic Police uniforms who tortured them in their homes. Some report having been taken away from their homes in military combat vehicles and later dumped some distance away from their homes. Others report having been taken to police stations where they were further tortured. Instruments employed in the torture of these victims were mainly batons sticks, chains, sjamboks, and rifles.
In Budiriro, for instance, ZRP officers were reportedly attacking victims at night while they were asleep at home and assaulting them. In one case, BN was asleep at home when riot police officers woke him up around 2 am and reportedly assaulted him with baton sticks, hose pipes and sjamboks, because he did not know the whereabouts of a certain MDC supporter. ZC of Budiriro purported that riot police officers approached him at 12 midnight, accused him of being an MDC supporter, and assaulted his back with a baton stick. In Nkayi, riot police and other civilians reportedly arrived at RM’s house at around 1 am, hurled insults at him and took him to a camp where he alleges that he was tortured through means of electrocution to force him to admit that he had burnt down the ZUPCO bus and that he belongs to the MDC. He was assaulted until the following morning. In Mutare Central, SK, a journalist, had accompanied a colleague to a police station when he was pushed into an office, arrested and denied access to his lawyer having been overheard by a police officer talking about the 19 to 20 March 2003 mass stay-away on his mobile phone. He was reportedly accused of being a sell-out and an MDC supporter. In Harare Central, William Nyamangara (MD of Sovereign Publishers Private Ltd) and Mhlabene Bhebhe (Origination Manager) were reportedly arrested on allegations of printing subversive material. Their company offices were ransacked by members of the ZRP and the 120 000 flyers that had been printed calling for the mass stay-away were confiscated.
In Dzivaresekwa, Tapiwa Nemaura, Beauty Murwisi, Matilda Listoni, Costa Machiwenyika, Kerina Mugandidze and Royai Makona were reportedly ordered to lie on the floor and were then beaten up with barbed wires by ZNA forces at Kadada Night-club. They sustained serious injuries. In Chitungwiza, a group of soldiers reportedly arrived around midnight at Royal Crown Nightclub at Chikwana, surrounded the premises, entered the nightclub and beat up patrons. They are reported to have ordered revellers to lie down, undress and paired them off with patrons of the opposite sex then forced them to have unprotected sex. In Mabvuku Margret Kulinji, (MDC Women’s League Secretary), Sonile (mother) and Crispen (brother) were reportedly assaulted by ZNA forces on accusations of taking part in the burning of a ZUPCO bus and of being MDC activists. Margret was reportedly dragged out of her bedroom into waiting tankers, and then was taken to a base where she was assaulted with baton sticks and electric cords. Sonile was also dragged into the bedroom, had her legs forced apart, and a gun stuck into her genitals. Crispen was also assaulted.
The Presidential Guard has also been implicated in the perpetration of OVT, as TM, BP, EM and SW and 22 other MDC supporters claim. They allege that they were coming from Hatcliffe where they had been attending an MDC rally and were driving past State House when the Presidential guard ordered them to disembark, force marched them to the state house and then assaulted them on accusations of chanting MDC slogans and not leaving the President to enjoy his peace. In Harare Central, FC was coming from delivering the Sunday Mail newspaper at Jonathan Moyo’s (Minister for Information and Publicity in the President’s Office) house on a bike when a soldier guarding State House stopped him, asked him why he was looking at the President’s house, struck him on the head with a steel bar and assaulted him with boots in a drainage trench within State House.
The fabric of Zimbabwean society is at grim risk if the level of state organized violence and torture, demonstrated in the incidents above, is maintained or increased. Equally damaging would be the use of organised violence by ZANU PF to suppress dissenting opinions and in the same vein MDC resorting to violent action as a means of expressing dissent.
Lovemore Muhlomeri (Daily News vendor at Corner Robert Mugabe and 4th Street in Harare) alleged that he was severely assaulted by ZANU PF supporters because he was selling the Daily News. The youths are said to have confiscated and torn up copies of the newspaper. In Kwekwe Abednico Malinga (MP for Silobela, MDC) was allegedly assaulted by ZANU PF supporters while in a fuel queue at a service station. They told him to “refuel his car in Britain” as the fuel there “did not belong the MDC President”. He was allegedly hit on the head with an empty bottle and sustained a deep cut. In Chitungwiza, Mthulusi Mlilo was reportedly dragged from Nkabayinde Business Centre to a District Development Fund truck by one Khiwa and unnamed ZNLWVA members, and was severely assaulted during his one day detention before his release. Mloyi’ s clothes and underwear were discovered the following day at the spot he is believed to have been abducted. In Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe, ZANU PF youths and war veterans reportedly set alight the entrance to SC’s house. She claims that they beat her up, and when her husband tried to escape, they cornered him and severely assaulted him with sticks and stones. Some victims complained that they were assaulted on account of their political affiliation. SB claims that she was on a bus from the city to Kuwadzana when some war veterans and ZANU PF youths grabbed and dragged her to a secluded area, administered electric shocks to her and then assaulted her on accusations of supporting the MDC.
MDC supporters allegedly stopped an omnibus and ordered occupants, including pre-school children, to disembark before petrol bombing the omnibus in Chitungwiza. The bus was burnt to ashes. In Mufakose, Sergeant Kasina, Constable Mubayiwa and two other policemen were allegedly beaten by Pilani Mukwayi and 17 other MDC supporters who demanded that they leave their rally in Mufakose, Area J Ground. In Highfield, a group of suspected MDC supporters is also alleged have assaulted the caretaker at Mhizha Primary School with sticks and booted feet, and then threatened him not to let Chinotimba hold the rally at the school.