THE anguish on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s face said it all as Rutendo Munengami, wife of Glen View North MP Fani Munengami, yesterday narrated her ordeal when 10 armed men beat her up and raped her in her home.
Seven years might appear like a long time to many people, but for Munengami memories are still fresh and she will never forget the cold winter night in June 2003 when 10 men dressed in army fatigues broke into her house.
With tears streaming down her cheeks, Munengami courageously tells a packed Book Café in Harare of politically motivated violence on women.
“One of the assailants lifted a gift that I had received from my husband and asked if he was good in bed which I did not answer,” she said. “He went ahead to ask “sei wakashamira mutengesi” (Why are you dressed in skimpy clothes for a sellout). He walked towards me and lifted my nightdress and raped me once in front of my nine-month-old son.”
One of her adductors, she claimed, was late Zanu PF minister without portfolio Elliot Manyika who died in a car crash two years ago.
After being abducted she said the assailants grabbed her baby boy and attempted to throw him on the floor before another abducted MDC supporter saved the innocent child from the near fatal experience.
For the alleged abductors she said, they feared that the nine-month infant would “sell-out just like his father”.
“My life has been affected tremendously by this ordeal,” said Munengami who is now an expectant mother.
“I cannot do heavy jobs like carry heavy items. After I got pregnant with the third child, I was told that I could not have any more children as my back cannot sustain it.”
For supporting the MDC, she spent three weeks in hospital nursing injuries suffered in the attack.
Her traumatic experience typifies the story of many women and other unfortunate people that have witnessed the ugly face of Zimbabwe’s politically motivated violence since Independence.
Launching a book documenting politically motivated violence titled Cries from Goromonzi: Inside Zimbabwe’s Torture Chambers, Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe needs transitional justice before next year’s elections.
The book recounts horrifying stories of 23 prominent and ordinary people detailing an orgy of violence targeted at suspected and known MDC-T supporters.
The MDC claims that over 300 people lost their lives during the bloody 2008 presidential election runoff that saw President Robert Mugabe clawing back to power after losing the first poll to Tsvangirai.
The book also names and shames state apparatchiks who through commission or omission fuelled persecution of dissenting voices.
Yesterday’s book launch coincided with the date of Tsvangirai’s brutal assault three years ago during the bloody Save Zimbabwe campaign at Harare Grounds, Highfield.
Police allegedly brutalised the MDC leader leaving him with bloodshot eyes, a swollen face and arms fractured. Sekai Holland and National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku were also assaulted during the peaceful protest. Apart from Tsvangirai’s injuries, the fateful day also claimed the two youthful lives of Gift Tandare and another MDC-T supporter who were fatally shot.
This incident put Zimbabwe’s human rights record in the spotlight and subsequently led to an emergency Sadc meeting in Dar-es-Salaam where former South African president Thabo Mbeki was appointed mediator between the country’s political rivals.
“It is very difficult to come to an occasion of this nature and not feel the cries of the victims,” Tsvangirai said.
“On hindsight how do you confront a regime that does not see any benefits of negotiation? How do you confront a dictator using democratic means? How do you balance the cries of victims and the fear of persecution? There cannot be real forgiveness without justice. National healing has not begun meeting the needs of the people.”
The inclusive government formed a national healing organ to pacify the animosity between rival political parties.
“The progress that we have made in the last 12 months is being challenged by unilateral decisions…For the moment we are not progressing at the pace any one of us would choose. But we are progressing anyway…We make two steps forward and three steps back,” Tsvangirai added
Since 1980, the report stated, the country has been “plagued” by serious levels of human rights violations perpetrated by security agents that include the police, army and intelligence service and other “private bodies” linked to Zanu PF led by President Robert Mugabe.
It further alleges that there are several “secret detention camps” across the country which are directly controlled by the state. An example of such a camp, according to the report, is a prison complex at Goromonzi Police Camp, 40 km east of the capital.
Human Rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga in his foreword to the book attributed the country’s political violence to a culture of impunity.
“The widespread use of torture to achieve political and other ends, as the report highlights, is entrenched by a prevailing culture of impunity –– protection of perpetrators of torture by the state,” he said.
He said there was no commitment by the inclusive government to bring perpetrators of political violence to book.
“The inclusive government must rise up to the challenge of dismantling the machinery and infrastructure of torture and end impunity,” Mavhinga said.
The report recommends that government should criminalise acts of torture and also advises the state to educate “law enforcement personnel, civil or military, medical personnel, public officials, and other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individuals subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment about the prohibition of torture”.
Cries from Goromonzi also challenges the yet to be formed Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to uphold basic human rights. It also recommends government to have “effective remedy” for persons whose rights have been violated in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil Rights.
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa recently told delegates at the High-Level of the 13th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva that government is committed to upholding human rights. He however said: “Focus should not be only on civil and political rights at the expense or exclusion of social, economic and cultural rights.
“The Zimbabwe government is concerned about traditional bias in favour of civil and political rights. Issues of racism, racial discrimination xenophobia and related intolerance and the right to development should be given their rightful place on the table”.