By Innocent Gonese
THE withdrawal of criminal charges against all but one of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members and workers who were arrested on trumped-up
charges during the months of March and April has clearly exposed the Zanu PF government for what it is — a cruel, heartless and tyrannical regime.
The arrests were carried out in a blaze of publicity and the detainees branded as terrorists. Graphic details were given of the crimes allegedly committed by the “terrorists” including the petrol-bombing of police stations, a Zanu PF office, training in banditry, sabotage and terrorism at the MDC offices and in South Africa and attempted murder.
The public media went into a frenzy in condemning the MDC and accusing it of causing mayhem and a reign of terror and yet not a single person had been convicted of any of the allegations levelled against them.
Among the MDC officials arrested were Morgan Komichi, the deputy organising secretary and a member of the standing committees, Ian Makone, the secretary for elections, Paul Madzore, the MP for Glen View and organising secretary for Harare province, and staff members Dennis Murira, Luke Tamborinyoka, Kudakwashe
Matibiri, Brighton Matimba and Zebediah Juaba.
All the arrested people were subjected to severe assaults and torture by police officers calculated to induce confessions.
In particular, Komichi, Makone, Mabika and Katsande went through harrowing experiences. It is simply through the grace of God that these people are still alive. They were all remanded in custody when it was evident that the police had grossly violated their rights. They were unwilling guests at our overcrowded, filthy and uninhabitable prisons which are straight out of hell.
What is most tragic about all this is that the Zanu PF regime knew all along that the detainees had no case to answer. The purpose of the arrests was simply to justify the crackdown on a legitimate political opposition whose only crime was to take a stand against dictatorship, tyranny and oppression. The state case hinged upon a fictitious person called Peter Chidodana, whom it failed to produce after being ordered to do so by the court.
The police, not satisfied with their unlawful and high handed methods against the arrested persons, went on to arrest the legal practitioners representing the accused persons namely Alec Muchadehama and Andrew Makoni, on spurious charges to frustrate the efforts of the detainees to regain their freedom. The criminal charges against the lawyers were without substance and the state was simply abusing the legal process to achieve its objectives of frustrating the accused persons.
The state deliberately violated the rights of the accused from the outset, denying them legal representation, access to food and medical treatment and disobeying court orders. This is unfortunately not the first time that it has happened but is part of a grand scheme to browbeat the people of Zimbabwe into submission. The Cain Nkala murder case is instructive when the state case crumbled like a deck of cards when it emerged that the video evidence which was displayed on ZTV amidst much fanfare was in fact wrongfully and unlawfully obtained.
The MDC activists have lost several months of their lives. They were deprived of their freedom. They were subjected to savage and inhuman treatment. Their families were subjected to untold anguish and suffering. But the regime knew all along that they were not guilty of any wrongdoing. The charges against them have been withdrawn before plea and the state may proceed against them by way of summons. But we know that this will not happen because the state does not have an iota of evidence against them.
The Zanu PF government has simply done this because it thinks that it will get away with it. While the government press devoted acres of space in its newspapers and hours of prime television time on ZTV to cover the arrests and court appearances of the MDC members, when it comes to the dropping of the charges there is deafening silence from the state media.
No screaming headlines this time about the state case which is now as dead as a dodo. We challenge the state media to give equal coverage to the withdrawal of the charges which virtually amounts to an acquittal.
The Zanu PF regime lied to Sadc in Dar es Salaam, they lied to parliament and they lied to the people of Zimbabwe that the MDC harboured terrorists.
Now that the cases have died a natural death, the only act of terrorism which turns out to have taken place was the brutal assault, illegal detention and the torture of MDC members who spent months in prison for no good reason.
The MDC condemns the actions of the police and state agencies responsible for the abuse of innocent citizens to achieve selfish political gains. Apart from the $4 trillion that our members are demanding in damages from the state, we demand the immediate investigation of the heinous acts of torture against the detainees and the consequent prosecution of individual police officers and state security agents involved in the same.
The culture of impunity in our state institutions must come to an end. Zimbabwe must uphold the rule of law and not just pay lip service to the ideals of the liberation struggle. We believe that the time has come to put a stop to this madness. We call upon the regime to accept that fundamental human rights and freedoms are universal and inviolable. The regime must ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture.
Legal proceedings for damages against the Minister of Home Affairs and the responsible officers have been commenced and the law will have to take its
* Innocent Gonese is MDC secretary for justice, legal and parliamentary affairs.