Exiled activist comes home to die

JOHANNESBURG - Gift Nhidza, a former Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activist who sustained horrific injuries when he was brutalised by the Zimbabwean government in 2008, has returned to die at home, after his health deteriorated recently.

Nhidza, originally from Odzi in Manicaland, has been living in exile in Johannesburg since fleeing threats on his life last year. He had been severely tortured by state security agents, Zanu (PF) youth militia and other supporters of Robert Mugabe during the post-election violence of 2008. Nhidza (32), a former soldier who served the MDC as one of its security officers between 1999 and 2008, has walked with the aid of crutches since the torture, in which he sustained fractures on both his legs and arms while being beaten with iron bars.

The former activist had previously vowed not to return to Zimbabwe as long as Mugabe was still in charge, but according to the MDC Veteran Activists Association (MDC VAA), he returned to Zimbabwe last week. Nhidza has not recovered from the torture that he went through at the hands of Zanu (PF) and recently became worse, said Adrian Chirape, MDC VAAs national co-ordinator and himself a torture victim. His whole body has been giving him problems ever since the torture. For someone who has been so afraid of returning to Zimbabwe to suddenly volunteer to be taken home and die there clearly shows his belief that his recovery prospects are now very slim.

Chirape said that the MDC VAA provided the bus fare for Nhidza. When he left, Nhidza could hardly walk or sit on his own. During the torture, Nhidza was accused of having been deployed by the MDC in South Africa to train bandits that would later be used to topple Mugabe a standard accusation used against many activitists and opposition supporters. After the torture in which he was left for dead, Nhidza was dumped on the road to be crushed by trucks in a stage-managed road accident. He woke up in time to roll into the bush, from where he was taken in a wheelbarrow by his younger brother. Nhidzas spinal cord was damaged in three different places as a result of the beating. He fled from hospital when the CIO made attempts to visit him there. Another former MDC supporter, Itayi Mudzingwa, who was also known as Kitsiyatota, died in exile in South Africa in May this year.

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