Mugabe to face justice

BY GIFT PHIRI
It started as a peaceful protest by Zimbabwe's umbrella trade union body, ZCTU, calling for better pay and affordable HIV/Aids drugs. It ended in a bloodbath. Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) spoke exclusively to our correspondent GIFT PHIRI abou

t the extent of police brutality, and the prospect of future MDC mass action.
HARARE – The MDC has gathered evidence to present to the International Court of Justice to ensure that President Robert Mugabe and his henchmen are brought to book for torture and crimes against the people of Zimbabwe.
MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai condemned the regime’s unprovoked use of excessive force against its own citizens during the peaceful ZCTU demonstration last week and the subsequent torture of labour leaders in custody.
“We have started the process of filing a class action at the International Court of Justice in The Hague against Mugabe and Zanu (PF),” said Tsvangirai.
“We vehemently condemn the brutality and sadistic action of the police. They have strengthened the resolve, not only of the labour leaders, but of some of us who are at the forefront of the democratic struggle,” he added.
By torturing labour leaders, Mugabe was “shooting the messenger” and denying Zimbabweans their “inalienable right” to express themselves freely in accordance with domestic and international statutes, he said. This left the opposition with no alternative but to take serious steps to bring members of the government to justice for their wanton abuse of human rights since Independence.
“We can’t have a government that is in combat with defenceless citizens,” Tsvangirai said. “We have started taking steps to bring this issue to the attention of the Hague, the UN, the African Union and the SADC. We have documented evidence.”
ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo, secretary-general Wellington Chibebe, ZCTU first Vice-President Lucia Matibenga, and other ZCTU General Council members, including teachers leader Raymond Majongwe, sustained broken bones and limbs after being gang lashed by over 20 Zanu PF youths in police custody. According to police sources, the Matapi Police Station Officer-In-Charge, who is also an ex-combatant, was given instructions to unleash the militia on the trade union leaders. Constable Oripa, a cruel one-eyed youth militia who mastered the art of torture at the notorious Border Gezi Youth Training Centre, was reported to have led the goon squad as it tortured the labour leaders with wooden batons and sjamboks.
According to reports by human rights lawyers and doctors, the labour leaders were stripped naked while in police custody, were beaten, kicked, handcuffed, leg ironed, subjected to water treatment, beaten under their feet, deprived of food, medication, blankets, were blind-folded and exposed to bright lights. The labour leaders were also forced to wade through a pond of raw sewerage at the filthy Matapi holding cell that has already been condemned by the Supreme Court.
Despite widespread accusations of torture, Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi called off an investigation into the allegations of persecution at Matapi Holding Cells, incurring the wrath of opposition and human rights organizations.
Harare magistrate Peter Mufunda had ordered the investigation after holding a court hearing at Chibebe’s bedside at Parirenyatwa Hospital on Saturday. A special court session was made for Chibebe after failing to appear in court after suffering a broken arm and sustaining grave head injuries during police torture. His lawyer said he was denied access to treatment for a crucial period of time.
“Zanu (PF) has lost political legitimacy in the eyes of Zimbabweans,” Tsvangirai said. “It has resorted to using government institutions as its anchor. But the structures that exist are State institutions. The police should stop carrying out work on behalf of Zanu (PF).”
Tsvangirai said there was an urgent need for a radical transformation of the police, the army, the CIO into professional bodies that do not owe their allegiance to any one party but to the nation.
Since the demonstration, the police have continued to harass, imprison and attack ZCTU members. Riot police tried to disperse a group of workers who had turned up for the labour leaders remand hearing at Rotten Row Magistrates Court on Friday, firing teargas before rounding up about four ZCTU members and two photojournalists.
The brutal crushing of the demo resulted in a storm of international condemnation from key western governments and countless human rights bodies which, Tsvangirai said, further ruined Zimbabwe’s already tattered image abroad.
Political analysts however warned that Mugabe would not be moved by shows of popular will as long as he has food in the State House pantry, loyal lieutenants, desperadoes with guns to do his bidding, and a ruling party in neighbouring South Africa that has staked its fortunes on the survival of Zanu (PF).

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