MDC activists forced to drink poison

Soldiers and Zanu-PF militia in Chiweshe, Mashonaland Central province,
forced MDC activists to drink Paraquat, a highly toxic herbicide used for
weed control.

One of those forced to drink the poison was Hilton Chironga, from Howard in

Chiweshe. On 20th June he suffered horrific facial injuries, described as

corrosive burns, caused by the Chinese made herbicide when he, together with

his mother, his sister and a neighbour were forced to drink it at a militia

base at Tetra farm in the area.

Shingi Nyoni, an investigator into human rights abuses, told us Hilton’s

brother Gibson was shot dead by the militia the same day he was forced to

consume poison. Two other people died in the same attack.

‘Hilton and his mother are currently admitted at a hospital in Harare. One

other person identified as Madamombe died from the poison. To date he only

takes liquids, milk and soup and is in constant pain,’ Nyoni said.

Paraquat is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It has had

a tarnished reputation because of its acute oral toxicity and ill-health

associated with operators – particularly in the plantation sectors of many

developing countries.

It is highly toxic if swallowed and as little as one teaspoonful of the

active ingredient is fatal. Death occurs up to 30 days after ingestion.

Apart from forcing people to drink the herbicide, the militia and soldiers

inflicted serious injuries on others by dipping their knobkerries and sticks

into paraquat, before beating their victims. This has caused serious wounds

that will not heal.

One of these victims is Patience Mapombere from Chaona, Chiweshe. She was

assaulted on 5th May, in an attack in which 6 men died. Attempts to apply

skin grafts to her serious open wounds have failed. Patience remains


‘To make matters worse, most of these victims are not getting any help from

the government to deal with their injuries. They need specialized medicines

and doses for their wounds and treatment,’ Nyoni added.

The injuries to his face are corrosive burns caused by a poison, Chinese

made herbicide – paraquat, which he and his mother, and sister, and a

neighbour were forced to drink by ZANU PF militia at a base at Tetra Farm,

in Chiweshe, on Friday, June 20. His brother was shot dead by the militia,

who also killed 2 other people.

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