Victims of political violence speak out on constitution

Edmore Mleya, the first known MDC victim of political violence, is following squabbles in the GPA and Zanu (PF)’s unwillingness to approve a people-driven constitution with unease. He fears the former ruling party could be stalling the constitution process and blocking security sector reforms, in order to repeat its 2008 reign of terror.

Diamond Tenifara: detained and tortured.
Diamond Tenifara: detained and tortured.

He says if Zimbabweans go to elections under the current constitution without security sector reforms, the poll will not be free and fair. “Voter apathy and disenfranchisement would characterize the election. The electorate would either be cowed out of the voting process by agents of terror or voluntarily pull out of the exercise as it realised the ballot would make no difference,” he says.

Mleya said if a new constitution was put in place before the next election, it would help usher in the rule of law and bring to book future perpetrators of violence. It would also enable people deprived of the right to vote in the past, to take part. “Thousands if not millions of eligible children born in Zimbabwe of ‘alien’ parents, were unjustly disenfranchised by the paranoid Zanu (PF) government, as they were regarded alien.”

Mleya, who was the first MDC Marondera Urban ward one councillor candidate in 2003 election, was forced out of the race at the last minute, branded an alien despite being born in Zimbabwe and his national identity documents confirming his citizenship status. Zanu (PF) candidate, Michael Matenga, went on to win the election uncontested.

He was a victim of unlawful political arrest and torture at the hands of state security agents 2002. After attending the first MDC National Congress in Chitungwiza on January 29, 2000, Mleya was blacklisted by Zanu (PF). The following month he was stabbed with a knife by identified Zanu (PF) thugs who bolted out of a party meeting at Dombotombo Hall. “The attack took place while I was on my way home from an MDC meeting held at Marondera Farmers Hall. I identified the assailants as Doubt Chikowe and Michael Mabhunu among others.

“The case was brought before Marondera Magistrates Court for trial but nothing came of it. My medical affidavits disappeared at the courts. A second affidavit was submitted and again went missing. As a result, the case has still not been tried. I am still holding on to records regarding the incident, hoping that justice will prevail in a new Zimbabwe,” said Mleya.

One day in 2002, Mleya who was also the first MDC deputy district youth organising secretary for Marondera, was forcibly taken away from his home by state security agents, who detained him at Marondera Police District Headquarters without clear charges. “On arrival at the police station, the security agents shouted to their colleagues ‘we have brought him.’ They went on to instruct that I be booked and detained for attempted murder. Other MDC activists continued to be arrested and joined me at the police station.

“Within a short space of time there were seven of us – Abraham Chalamanda, Diamond Tenfara and Tichaona Chihota were arrested in Marondera Urban while Hebert Chapendama, Paul Jera and Munyaradzi Mupazvirihwo were arrested at Marondera East Rural.

“We were detained and tortured for three long days from Friday to Monday, until the timely intervention by Human Rights Lawyer, Alec Muchadehama.

“We would be pulled out of the holding cells by day and night and severely tortured at the CID offices open space by means of electric power and beatings under the feet. We would also be forced to drink 20 litres of water from a bucket without a break. Failure to meet the instructions would attract stiffer punishment such as simulated drowning.

“Our tormentors constantly asked us if we knew the late MDC Learnmore Jongwe, Sox (Morgan Tsvangirai’s body guard) and other key party leaders. We were finally released without being charged.”

Another victim, Anyway Tafireyi, said security sector reforms were necessary before any elections were held. One of the MDC founders, Tafireyi, was shot in the head by suspected state security agents, who infiltrated the Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre where victims of Zanu (PF) violence were sheltered in June 2008 by the United Nations. He spent seven days unconscious in hospital with a gun bullet lodged in his head.

“I am a living testimony of suspected state security brutality. Security sector reforms and a new constitution are a pre-requisite for free and fair elections,” he said.

Tafireyi believes he was targeted because of his role in inviting a top UN official from Geneva, Mr Georges, to come and help improve security of refugees at the centre.

“Two days later, Zanu (PF) top government officials, including Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Nicholas Goche and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri visited the centre ostensibly to help access conditions. “As leader of the refugees, I was outstandingly vocal and quizzed Goche on the sincerity of their visit. This could have exposed me to the assailants who infiltrated the centre three days later and made an attempt at my life. I had also earlier led victims of political violence to the Germany Embassy seeking for asylum,” he said.

Villagers from across Mashonaland East Province and many others have expressed disappointment at the way Zanu (PF) has handled the constitution process. “Zanu (PF) is out of touch with reality. People no longer want to be associated with whatever the former ruling party stands for. Zanu (PF) is not the people and should let people decide the fate of the constitution at a referendum. The fact that Zanu (PF) wants to block the constitution before it goes to referendum confirms that the so called liberation party fears the people’s verdict,” concurred villagers.

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