Human Rights Abuses

Bulawayo-based writer has announced that he is in the process of translating his earlier story on Gukurahundi massacres in Shona language to allow all Zimbabweans understand the brutality experienced in Matabeleland during that time.

Farai Mpofu, who published a story on the post-independence Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands entitled Jacarandas Blooming, has decided to reach to a wider readership through a Shona version of the reflective piece.

Mpofu said he decided to write the story about Gukurahundi because he felt he could tell the story of Matabeleland much better.

“Most people in the country do not understand why people in Matabeleland always talk about Gukurahundi. The effects are outstanding and that is why most people from the province feel comfortable living outside the country,” said the 31-year-old writer.

In the story Mpofu uses a character called Jabu to capture the effects of Gukurahundi.

Jabu loses his mother during the disturbances where thousands of innocent civilians were massacred and decides to leave the country and go to Botswana.

While in the neighbouring country, he becomes a victim of xenophobia with the locals there accusing him coming into their country “to take their women and jobs”.

He is later brought before a traditional court and is caned before being thrown into prison. He writes a letter to his late mother “with tears” as Mpofu put it. He is later deported.

“Most victims of xenophobia in South Africa and Botswana are people that hail from Matabeleland and the Midlands,” said the high school teacher.

“They left after realising that danger was knocking at their doors.”

Nine other writers are also included in the anthology.


The impunity guaranteed by President Robert Mugabe for his violent militias and security forces has left most of Zimbabwe’s people in a state of perpetual fear, according to a report released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The thousands of cases of murder, torture and destruction of property committed by Mugabe’s supporters over the last decade means there will be further violence when the country next goes to elections, the New York-based HRW said.

Mugabe, 87, has said he plans to hold elections soon this year, while local human rights organizations in Harare say there has been a countrywide deployment of youth militias, soldiers, war veterans and police who have been carrying out a familiar pattern of brutal pre- electoral intimidation against his opponents.

The situation in Zimbabwe is drastically deteriorating, HRW researcher Tiseke Kadambala said at a media conference in Johannesburg to launch the report.

HRW says that Mugabe’s ZANU(PF) party is responsible at the highest levels for the violence.

Despite the power-sharing agreement Mugabe and pro-democracy Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai signed two years ago, security agents and militias continue to commit human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, beatings, torture and killings of supporters of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, the report charges.

‘There has been little or no accountability for these crimes,’ the report said. ‘The government has not made any genuine effort to investigate, much less discipline or prosecute any of the individuals responsible.’

The failure to deal with the violence has encouraged Mugabe’s supporters because they know they will get away with it, the report added.

HRW cites individual cases, such as that of Tendai L, whose parents were killed in a rural village during the infamous presidential run-off elections in June 2008 when 200 MDC supporters were murdered and 5,000 tortured.

His neighbours were the killers, he is quoted as saying.

‘They have made it clear that at the next elections they will do it again because they didn’t get arrested,’ he said. ‘We now live in perpetual fear.’

Last year, the MDC sent a report on the 2008 atrocities to attorney-general Johannes Tomana, who is an avowed ZANU(PF) supporter.

It contained comprehensive details of the names of 183 murdered MDC supporters, the killers and the circumstances. Over a year and a half later, the MDC has not even received a response from Tomana, HRW said.

With the coalition government two years old, Tsvangirai’s ministers and officials in the government lack real power to end human rights abuses and end impunity, HRW said. Mugabe used politicised senior civil servants, army and police officers under his control to dominate government.

Diplomatic sources in Harare quote Theresa Makone, Tsvangirai’s co-minister of home affairs, as telling private meetings that Mugabe’s police commissioner Augustine Chihuri, who is meant to take instructions from her, ignores her and never returns telephone calls or responds to letters or emails.

Rashid Mahiya, director of the Heal Zimbabwe Trust, said SADC, the Southern African regional alliance, and the African Union had been very lax in dealing with the violence.

‘They have not stood by their own principles. It’s very unfortunate. When Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbabgo last year refused to recognize electoral defeat, ECOWAS, the West African regional group, had responded immediately,’ he said.

But when Mugabe plays the card of victim, SADC finds it difficult to act.’

Local human rights organizations have detailed repeatedly incidents this year when MDC officials reported to police attacks on them by ZANU(PF) gangs, only to find themselves arrested instead. MDC legislator and human rights lawyer Douglas Mwonzora is still in police cells three weeks after such an incident.

Ending impunity for past and ongoing abuses is essential if Zimbabwe is to end violence and firmly establish the rule of law, the HRW report says.

It recommends establishing an independent commission to investigate past atrocities, as well as an ombudsman to investigate crimes by the police and military.

An official human rights commission was established under the coalition agreement, but its officials say it has no budget and no legislation to enforce it. Lawyers say Zimbabwe also has a public protectors office, but that it is not mandated to investigate the uniformed forces.


Finance Minister Tendai Biti has dragged two policement notorious for torturing political and human rights activists to court.

Biti, who serves as secretary-general in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has taken Chief Superintendent Chrispen Makedenge, the Officer Commanding CID Law and Order Section at Harare Central Police Station and Assistant Commissioner Matema to the Supreme Court, where he is challenging his long drawn out incarceration in filthy cells for allegedly committing treason.

Biti, the MDC chief negotiator in inter-party talks, was arrested and detained by Makedenge and Matema in June 2008 on treason charges and communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the state, soon after his return from South Africa.

The treason charge emanated from a document he allegedly authored entitled “The Transition Strategy”, while the other charge was about statements he allegedly made after the March 29 harmonised elections in which MDC leader Tsvangirai shocked President Robert Mugabe by defeating him in an election.

Although the charges were later dropped by the state after his appointment as Finance Minister in a shaky a coalition government of Mugabe and Tsvangirai, Biti wants the Supreme Court to annual High Court Judge Samuel Kudya’s judgment which declared Biti’s prolonged detention as lawful.

Supreme Court Judges Justice Vernanda Ziyambi, Paddington Garwe and Misheck Cheda will preside over Biti’s appeal.

Kudya declared as lawful Makedenge and Matema’s detention of Biti after the lawyer-turned politician challenged the validity of his detention for five days instead of being brought to court as stipulated in his warrant of arrest which the notorious policemen relied upon to detain him.

Human rights groups say although the Supreme Court’s consideration of Biti’s appeal, which has been set for hearing on Monday will be academic, its exposes the slow pace of the country’s justice delivery system.

“It however serves to highlight the slow nature of Zimbabwe’s justice delivery system, and how authorities can potentially escape liability for abuses of fundamental rights because cases take too long to be heard and finalised,” said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), an influential rights group, which strives to foster a culture of human rights in Zimbabwe.

Makedenge and Matema have over the past decades been fingered in many cases of abuse, harassment, arrest and torture of political and human rights activists.

Early this year Makedenge forced freelance journalist Stanley Kwenda to go into exile after he threatened him over a story which he alleged the journalist had authored exposing his private life. More than a dozen victims of state sponsored enforced disappearance are suing Makedenge for torturing them during the period they were held incommunicado.