Catholic priest beaten by soldier

catholic_priest1We received a very disturbing report today that is yet another indication that the army is getting completely out of line. A well known Catholic priest in Banket has been savagely beaten by a soldier.

Father Wolfgang Thamm is in his late 60s and is a man who is deeply respected by everyone who knows him. Hes been a priest in Zimbabwe for most of his life and for the past 12 years has been ministering in Banket. On Sunday afternoon he was on a mercy mission to Darwendale with one of the hospital nursing sisters, to fetch an asthmatic boy from the Darwendale clinic and take him back to Banket hospital for better care.

From Trelawney he took the Maryland Road to Darwendale and about half way, passed the farm buildings which have been commandeered by the army as a sort of barracks, because it is close to their national armory in Darwendale. He was flagged down by a soldier standing at the side of the road, but he didnt notice the man until the nursing sister with him said she thought they were being waved down. He reversed the vehicle back about 50 metres and was met with full abuse for his failure to instantly obey the signal.

The armed man ripped off his glasses and gave him a full punch to the right eye (already damaged from a vicious beating he had in the 2002 elections). He was then hauled out of the bakkie, punched again and shoved into a large muddy puddle, where he was kicked in the stomach twice and beaten again. They then used a container to pour muddy water over him from head to toe, until even his shoes were full of mud. He was then told to get out of there.He drove to Darwendale clinic where they cleaned him up, gave him aspirin, lent him a pair of old trousers and a blanket for his shoulders to replace the wet, muddy clothes and in driving rain he drove all the way back to Banket hospital, in the dark.

His one eye is now completely red where the white should be and his cheeks puffy and bruised. His stomach is also still very sore. His staff and parishioners are devastated by this attack on such a good man. Apart from anything else Banket has had no power (therefore no water) for the past seven days and Father Thamm has been running a generator a few hours a day to pump water free of charge, so that people in Kuwadzana township can collect in their buckets. It is of great concern that the army feels so unaccountable and free to abuse anyone they want to. It does not bode well for the future of Zimbabwe.

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