Zimbabwe: Church leaders condemn abduction of politicians

Three female members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance (MDC-Alliance) were allegedly arrested at a roadblock and abducted in Harare by unknown men, last Wednesday. They were found on Friday, dumped by a roadside 80 miles north of Harare severely beaten and traumatised.

The women: Joana Mamombe (MP for Harare West), Cecilia Chimbiri (MDC Alliance Youth Assembly Vice-Chair) and Netsai Marova (Deputy Organising Secretary of the Youth wing) had taken part in a peaceful protest against the government’s Covid-19 lockdown which was put in place without support for the poor.

In a strongly-worded statement released this week, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) to which the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) is a part, denounced the abductions. They also drew attention to the brutal assault of two Zimbabwean women in the country’s second-largest city, Bulawayo, on 16 April at the hands of six police officers.

“Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) has received with shock and disbelief the news of yet another abduction and inhuman treatment of three young women including a Member of Parliament. This comes only some few days after the barbaric physical assault of two women, Ntombizodwa and Nokuthula Mpofu, of Cowdray Park, Bulawayo by six police officers. It should be stated that the reports suggesting that Harare West Legislator, Joana Mamombe and her colleagues Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova were taken from police custody, and were tortured and sexually assaulted and inhumanely treated by yet to be known agents point to something that is against the heart of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the various International Conventions to which Zimbabwe is a signatory and, above all, to our cultural norms and our fundamental Christian beliefs regarding the sanctity and dignity of life,” said Zimbabwe’s Church leaders.

“First, it is deeply disturbing that the country has seen so many cases of abductions in the last few months, most of which have not been conclusively investigated. What is further disturbing are the insinuations, from some state agents, that all these abductions arc either stage-managed or carried out by an unrecognisable ‘third force’ without substantiating such claims with credible and irrefutable evidence. This constitutes the denigration of responsibility of the highest order on the part of government,” said the Church leaders.

ZHOCD has called for a full investigation. They condemn the ill-treatment of women as a whole, particularly, “in 2020 when the whole world is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, which was a global high point in recognition of the dignity of women after centuries of patriarchal domination and treatment of women as second class citizens of the world.”

Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa, condemned the abduction of the three MDC female politicians. She said: “Zimbabwe has a history of enforced disappearances, with some activists having gone missing for years now. Many activists have been tortured in police custody, despite denials by police.”

Since 2019, more than 50 social and political activists have been abducted and tortured by unknown persons. In September 2019, Dr Peter Magombeyi, President of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, who was campaigning for better working conditions, was abducted, beaten, tortured and later dumped by the roadside. He survived the ordeal. (At the beginning of this year, hospital doctors in Zimbabwe earned justunder $200 a month.)

Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister, Kazembe Kazembe has ordered the Commissioner-General of Police to institute a full-scale investigation into the abduction of the three female MDC leaders. He said the Commissioner-General should “establish what transpired, who did what, and the motive behind the actions.”

Zimbabwe’s Church leaders under the ZHOCD have pledged to continue offering pastoral support, comfort and protection to all victims of abductions and brutality.

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