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Human rights violators still on the loose

Blessing Zulu

THE rule of law in Zimbabwe has been severely undermined in cases where the police have failed to investigate or prosecute state-sponsored killings and torture.

The government has made promises both locally and internationally to deal with perpetrators of gross human rights abuses but there appears to have been little or no progress in this regard.

Emblematic of this failure to tackle state-inspired violence is the case of Talent Mabika and Tichaona Chiminya, two Movement for Democratic Change activists who were petrol-bombed by a known state agent and his accomplice in the run- up to the 2000 parliamentary poll.

Joseph Mwale, a CIO operative and Tom Kitsiyatota Zimunya, a war veteran, have been named as suspects. They were arrested by the police but subsequently released.

Mwale and Zimunya failed to appear in the High Court to give evidence in their own defence in a MDC parliamentary election appeal. A warrant for their arrest was issued but no arrests have been made.

High Court judge Justice James Devittie two years ago ordered that a record of the case involving the constituency challenge in Buhera North be sent to the Attorney-General with a view to a possible prosecution of the alleged killers of Mabika and Chiminya. The court heard testimony from an eyewitness that Mabika and Chiminya were killed by Mwale and Zimunya.

The judge said “the killing of Chiminya and Mabika was a wicked act”.

Acting Attorney-General Bharat Patel has promised to bring to justice the alleged perpetrators but there has to date been no prosecution.

At the height of farm invasions from March 2000 12 white commercial farmers and an estimated 100 opposition supporters lost their lives to marauding militias and self-proclaimed war veterans, but so far there have been few, if any, successful prosecutions.

The first white farmer to be killed in cold blood was David Stevens. He died on April 15 2000 in Mashonaland East province after having been seized from a police station by a Zanu PF gang.

A priest who conducted a memorial service said it was essential for “the soul of the country” that Stevens’ killers be brought to justice.

A few days after the death of Stevens another farmer, Martin Olds, was killed in Nyamandlovu. In 2001, Olds’ mother, Gloria, was also killed on the same farm.

Justice for Agriculture, a farmers organisation, said on its website that “no arrests have been made in connection with any of these murders”. In both the Stevens and Gloria Olds cases suspects were interviewed but released.

Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena however insisted last week that there had been follow-ups.

“The Stevens case and all the other cases involving the farmers were investigated,” Bvudzijena said.

When challenged to explain why the suspects had not been prosecuted, Bvudzijena said this was not their problem.

“We arrest people on reasonable suspicion according to the evidence we have. These are not the only cases where suspects have been released for lack of substantial evidence,” he said.

MDC MP Job Sikhala and his colleagues, Taurayi Magaya, Charles Mutama and Gabriel Shumba were arrested and tortured by police earlier this year but no action has been taken against the culprits.

Sikhala, Magaya and Mutama had to receive specialist treatment in Denmark.

An affidavit signed by Dr Faith Ndebele, a psychiatrist, said Sikhala was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with depressive features.

Earlier this year Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo in a letter to Australian Prime Minister John Howard calling for the lifting of Zimbabwe’s suspension from the Commonwealth, said President Mugabe had promised to deal with the issue.

“I raised the issue with President Mugabe who confirmed that the MP concerned (Sikhala) had taken the case to court and that the police admitted with apology that the MP was assaulted,” said Obasanjo in his letter.

“The police were to take necessary disciplinary action against the culprit. President Mugabe denied any government involvement in such police acts. Allowing the case to be prosecuted in court must convince people that the government was not behind the act and would not condone it,” said Obasanjo.

Sikhala said Mugabe had deliberately misled Obasanjo.

“That promise to Obasanjo never went anywhere,” Sikhala said last week. “It was just a gimmick by Mugabe to win sympathy, no investigation took place.”

It was last month reported that Henry Dowa, a chief inspector in the Criminal Investigation Department (Law and Order Section) who had been serving in the United Nations administration in Kosovo, returned to Zimbabwe after he was accused by human rights groups of torturing detainees here. The UN made a request for his withdrawal from the Kosovo mission after an internal inquiry, it was reported.

Bvudzijena confirmed at the time that the UN had written to government about the matter. But Dowa remains active and was involved in the arrest of NCA members last month.

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