Torture victims hope for justice in post-Mugabe era

HARARE - His hands are bruised. The deep cuts on his darkened face are only beginning to heal and so are the soles of his feet that were so swollen he could not wear shoes.
From observing the injuries you could only conclude one thing, that whoever did this to him must have wanted not just to

punish and maim but to leave a lasting impression on his victim.
Meet Thabani Mlambo, a youth official of Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, who was two weeks ago brutally tortured by members of the army at a military garrison along the highway from Harare to the capital’s dormitory town of Chitungwiza.
“They did a thorough job on me,” Mlambo says, somehow sounding as if he feels compelled to explain the many scars and injuries all over his body.
“They beat me up in the groin and dipped my head in cold water while holding me by the feet and they said for my own good, I should never tell this to anyone,” Mlambo said.
A slight quiver in his voice and the tears forming in his eyes areclear signals that his experience at the garrison is perhaps a chapter he would rather not be reminded of.
But the assault and torture at Manyame military barracks recently was not Mlambo’s first encounter with state security forces. In April, he was picked up from his home in Zengeza by members of President Robert Mugabe’s dreaded spy -Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
He was whisked away, blindfolded to their offices at Makoni shopping centre, where he remained for the next three days being beaten and tortured for working for the opposition.
“I was terribly beaten up and they only let me go on the third day and only after my family and senior MDC officials laid siege to the offices, demanding to know where they had taken me,” he says.
Mlambo’s latest ordeal with state security forces began on a bright Sunday morning a few weeks ago as he waited by the roadside for a vehicle to pick him up for a party meeting in Chitungwiza.
A pick-truck pulled-up close to where he stood and as the three men in the truck made to alight from the vehicle they greeted him. Thinking they were acquaintances, Mlambo returned the greeting but before he knew it, he was bundled into the truck and driven away to Manyame barracks.
He narrates what followed: “First they asked me to tell them which army officers were conniving with MDC leaders and how far we have gone in our preparations for mass demonstrations to oust the government. When I refused to answer their questions, they started beating me up, they beat me in the groin on my feet soles then they held me up by the feet while dipping my head in ice cold water. This continued for about eight hours when they decided to let me go but told me I was never to report the matter to the police although I could seek medical attention.” Mlambo is not alone.
Thousands of MDC supporters and officials have been beaten up and tortured by soldiers, police and CIO agents as punishment for backing the opposition party. Many suffer silently, afraid of reporting or even telling their experiences to friends for fear of victimisation by state agents.
A recent study by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum (ZHRF) notes that out of the torture cases brought before the courts against state security agents, the victims have won in 90 percent of the cases.
However, in almost all the cases, none of the state agents accused has ever been brought to book.
“Eventually, one realises it’s futile even to go to the courts because nothing happens to the perpetrators,” says MDC legislator Job Sikhala, who himself was once severely tortured by the CIO.
Innocent Gonese, the MDC’s secretary for justice, said the party’s welfare department had a long list of torture victims looking for medical and legal help.
“We cannot cope. We are not sure whether we will manage to help them because it appears nothing happens in the end. We only hope the cases are important in a post-Mugabe era,” he said.
Maybe in that post-Mugabe era all who are committing torture against defenceless citizens will be forced to answer for their actions. But until then, hundreds of victims have little to expect from a justice system that has so woefully failed them. – ZimOnline

Post published in: Opinions

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