The Standard (Zimbabwe), Mar. 19
ZIMBABWE’s security forces last year committed extra judicial killings, tortured, raped, effected arbitrary arrests on opposition party supporters as the country’s human rights record continued to worsen, according to a damning report recently released by the United States Department of State.
The 26-page report made available to The Standard recently, said the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and some police units either participated or provided transport as well as other logistical support to the perpetrators of political violence.
“Security forces committed extra judicial killings. Security forces and government youth militias tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused people and some persons died from their injuries,” said the report titled Country (Zimbabwe) Reports on Human Rights Practices — 2003 and released by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.
The report is pregnant with details of human rights offences that were committed, not only by the State security forces, but by supporters of the ruling party and the youth militia with the blessing of the Zimbabwean government last year
It ranks the Zimbabwe government’s human rights record as one of the worst in the region.
Quoting the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, the US report said at least nine people were last year killed in political violence perpetrated by Zanu PF supporters, war veterans and youth militia supported by the country’s security apparatus, which has become President Robert Mugabe’s handy repressive tool.
Among those mentioned as victims of Mugabe’s repressive regime were supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) such as Steven Tonera of Chimanimani, Richard Tonderayi Machiridza of Chitungwiza, Tichaona Kaguru of Harare and Samson Shawano Kombo of Makoni East in Manicaland.
The majority died from wounds inflicted on them by suspected government security agents and Zanu PF supporters and war veterans.
“Security forces were involved in incidents of political violence, including instances of soldiers and persons in military uniforms beating civilians, particularly in areas where persons voted for the opposition,” noted the report.
It also accused Mugabe’s government of restricting freedom of the Press by closing down the country’s sole daily, The Daily News and its sister paper The Daily News on Sunday, academic freedom, right of association for political organisations and violating worker rights.
During the course of the year, a number of journalists, mostly from the privately-owned media and foreign correspondents, have been harassed and arrested for publishing articles perceived to be anti-government.
“The government continued to restrict freedom of speech and the Press; closing down the only independent daily newspaper, beat, intimidated, arrested and prosecuted journalists who published anti-government articles,” said the US Department of State report.
The report said the judiciary was not spared as judges and magistrates have been attacked for handing down judgments against the ruling party while detained persons were not allowed prompt or regular access to their lawyers.
“Several attorneys were denied access to their clients during the course of the year … They complained that police officers were obstructive and verbally and physically abusive,” it says.
The report notes that during the year, Zanu PF supporters and war veterans, with material support from the government, expanded the occupation of commercial farms, “and in some cases killed, abducted, tortured, beat-up, abused, raped and threatened the farm owners, including anyone believed to be sympathetic to the opposition”.
The farm invasions by war veterans and Mugabe’s supporters are largely blamed for the current food crisis facing the country, once the breadbasket of Southern Africa.