HomeBusiness DigestI was tortured by drunk security agents — Gwezere

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MOVEMENT for Democratic Change (MDC) transport manager Pasco Gwezere says he is a “dead” man. “They have killed me already,” were the first words he uttered to the Zimbabwe Independent when asked about his ordeal at the hands of security agents. He says he was tortured.

Gwezere, a former MDC head of security, was abducted by suspected state security agents on October 27 2009 at his Mufakose home in full view of his wife and children. He was later accused of conniving with army officers and stealing 20 AK 47 rifles and a shotgun from an armory at Pomona Barracks.

A soldier, Baureni Mafara, has already been jailed for 35 years while a civilian, Emmanuel Mashiri, was sentenced to 15 years for the theft of the arms. Gwezere today is a free man as the state failed to provide a trial date. His lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, said the state’s case against his client was weak hence the state was told to proceed by way of summons.

Describing the torturers, Gwezere said the men were invariably drunk during interrogation and used a variety of methods from tying his genitals in a strong cotton thread and pulling them in all directions to burying him alive.

“They damaged my manhood; they tied my genitals with cotton strings and would pull them from all sides. When that didn’t work they wanted to bury me alive. I can never forget the pain and humiliation for a crime I did not commit,” he narrated this week.

A medical expert who examined Gwezere last November confirmed to the Independent that Gwezere had wounds consistent with torture.

“Both of his feet were swollen and he had a septic wound on the lateral side of his left leg. He had a scar on his genital organs that could have been caused by a thick cotton thread. He has scratch marks on his left lower back and suspension scars on both wrists,” the doctor said.

The wound on his leg was a result of the torturers pulling flesh from his shin with pincers.

Gwezere says the torture adversely affected his sex life but the medical expert said that might be a psychological after-effect he did not notice rather than a direct result of the physical torture.

Gwezere is the second defendant to allege drunkenness among security agents during interrogation. Key state witness in the trial of MDC-T treasurer-general and deputy Agriculture minister-designate Roy Bennett, Peter Michael Hitschmann told the High Court last month that his torturers forgot to get his signature for an affidavit that would have made the state’s case against Bennett stronger because they were drunk on the job.

Gwezere’s ordeal now suggests agents boozing on duty could be a common practice, particularly during interrogation.

“They caused extensive damage to me for no apparent reason,” Gwezwere said. “I told them several times despite their beatings that I did not steal the firearms and did not know where they were.”

He said: “When they took me it was a Hollywood movie-style arrest. The door was just opened without a knock and within a few seconds the small room was filled with men in plain clothes, wielding pistols.

“They asked me who I was and I told them my full name and they said I was the one they wanted. They didn’t tell me the nature of my charges; they had no papers on them to show me that they had the right to be invading my privacy.”

He said outside the house police in riot gear and more state agents had barricaded the road from both ends.

He was taken away in a silver Isuzu KB250, which had no identification plates. During the abduction the agents repeatedly threatened him with death. He was never sure where he was being driven to but remembers that they passed through Marimba police station in Mufakose. They stopped for just a minute before blind-folding him and proceeding to where-he-knew-not.

On the way to their destination he claims to have been beaten with the butt of a pistol while being pinched all over the body including on the ears.
On arrival at a base he did not know, Gwezere said he was taken to a room where the beating continued. This time his interrogators used booted feet, clinched fists and open palms. One of the torturers used a broomstick to assault him.

On the first night he claims he was not asked anything in connection with the stolen firearms, instead they asked about his powers as an MDC employee and where he got the powers from.

The state implicated him in the arms theft through a text message that was in his phone warning him to be careful because the Central Intelligence Organisation had plans to take him in over the firearms.

“I told them that I had no control of the messages that got into my phone and that I did not know what had happened to the firearms. But this made them very happy and they said they had got their thief.”

Asked why in the first place he alone of all the people in the MDC-T had been implicated in the arms theft, Gwezere said he thought he had been framed by someone within the MDC-T itself.

“I was implicated by fellow workmates who could not stand the idea of being taken in by the security agents.”

While in detention Gwezere alleges intense torture using inhuman tactics.

He said at one time they tied his arms and legs together and put a tow bar beneath his knees and suspended him between two tables and began to beat him. They codenamed this torture method “Birchenough Bridge” after the suspension bridge over the Save river in Chipinge, Manicaland.

Just before his first appearance in court on Saturday, October 31 he says the interrogators used another method of torture: they threw him into a shallow grave and began to shovel earth on top of him until only the head was left exposed. They said they would only dig him out when he revealed where the stolen arms were hidden. They called this the “undertaker method”.

“They told me that I was a stubborn man and that all levels of interrogation had almost been complete yet I had not said anything, so they were going to use the ‘undertaker method’.”

But before using the “undertaker method” they had showed him a report they said they would send to the editor of a state newspaper which stated that he had escaped from police custody and was feared to have skipped the border into neighbouring Mozambique.

This ploy, Gwezere claimed, was intended to instill maximum fear in him for he would feel that he was really going to be killed. He said the torturers said they would give the media the statement after he failed to cooperate and they had killed him.

But this did not soften him. In the end they gave up.

 

Wongai Zhangazha

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