Who was responsible? Alleged perpetrators and their crimes during the 2000 Parliamentary Election period

This report is a follow-up to “Who is Responsible?: A preliminary analysis of pre-election violence in Zimbabwe”, which was released in June 2000 by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. It sought to catalog emerging allegations of gross human rights violations committed during the run-up period to the June 2000 Parliamentary Elections and aimed to establish certain facts about the nature of political violence during that time. When the report was released, the Forum had taken more than 60 statements which proved that Zanu (PF), their supporters and many state organs were engaged in a systematic, pre-meditated campaign to terrorize local communities into voting for the party or not voting at all. While there were allegations across the political divide, only a very small number implicated opposition parties and there was no evidence that these parties were engaged in a broad-based, systematic campaign. Now, almost a year after the June 2000 parliamentary elections, roughly 1000 statements from victims of political violence and information gathered from victims who have testified in the election challenges at the High Court have further substantiated these allegations.

In the course of compiling this information, the Forum has begun to put together a picture of who committed acts of violence, how often, and in what manner. This follow-up report, “Who was Responsible?: Alleged Perpetrators and their Crimes During the 2000 Parliamentary Election Period”, contains a list of alleged offenders by name, implicating a number of key officials and detailing some of the most particularly egregious cases of violence. It is important to stress that this list is woefully incomplete; it represents only those perpetrators named by victims in statements or in the course of court proceedings. Compiling a complete list of offenders and offences should be the job of a much-needed independent judicial commission to examine all cases of violence surrounding the parliamentary elections and subsequent by-elections. This report seeks only to provide a glipse of the massive scale of violence undertaken during the elections and identify who is alleged to have been responsible. Many of the alleged perpetrators still hold key positions in the government and other institutions and could continue their violent activities in future elections.

The perpetrator list contains 644 names but the actual number of perpetrators and the number of political crimes they have committed is exponentially higher, due to the fear or inability of victims to report their experiences. Without a powerful independent judicial commission, it is impossible to determine the number of perpetrators who committed acts of political violence during the first half of 2000. One independent report has estimated that there were well over 200,000 cases of political violence in the first half of 2000. Given that 635 perpetrators were named from only about 1000 statements, it is clear that there are many thousands across the country who took part in acts of violence in the parliamentary election period. But the fact remains that the very first act of political violence committed was as heinous and damaging as the hundreds of thousands that followed.

Unfortunately, none of these alleged perpetrators are likely to stand trial. The General Amnesty for Politically-Motivated Crimes, which was gazetted on 6 October 2000, absolved most of the perpetrators from prosecution. While the Amnesty excluded those accused of “murder, robbery, rape, indecent assault, statutory rape, theft, possession of arms or any offence involving fraud or dishonesty”, very few persons accused of these crimes have been persecuted. For example, in Mberengwa East, where nearly 230 persons were arrested, only Wilson ‘Biggie’ Chitoro, an accused murderer, has thus far been detained for any length of time for any crimes relating to the June 2000 elections. No one has yet stood trial. During the Buhera North election challenge High Court Justice James Devittie requested that Attorney General Andrew Chigovera arrest suspected murderers Joseph Mwale and Kainos Zimunya for their role in the petrol-bomb murder of two MDC officials, but no action has been taken. If murders are not being prosecuted, it is unlikely that any other offences exempted in the Amnesty will be dealt with at all.

Amnesties have proven to be a dangerous practice in Zimbabwe and have set an unfortunate precedent. A general amnesty was imposed both after the Liberation War and after the Matebeleland massacres in the 1980’s. As a result, Zimbabwe’s disinclination towards seeking accountability in both these eras has been instructive to the populace in general: crimes will not be prosecuted, criminals are free and are even encouraged to terrorize again, and victims will be denied justice. The latest Amnesty absolved those who committed crimes between 1 January and 31 July 2000 but subsequent allegations of political crimes have since gone unattended to by authorities. It is rare that an individual is arrested for a politically motivated act of violence and virtually unheard of that the incident will ever reach trial. If it does, the perpetrators are usually members of the MDC. Zanu (PF) supporters, war veterans and CIO members seem to operate with unofficial impunity.

The legal precedent set by a lack of prosecution and the implementation of the Amnesty has contributed to the current situation where it can be argued that there is no law. Selective prosecution and crimes committed by perpetrators who should already be behind bars are signs of a system that has not just bent, but has been broken for some time. While the sheer number of perpetrators in this report and the harrowing tales of torture which precede them are quite daunting, what is perhaps more horrifying is the knowledge that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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