HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsTorturing poachers abhorrent

Torturing poachers abhorrent

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Government has taken the fight to poachers accused of poisoning and killing more than 100 elephants in Hwange National Park.

NewsDay Editorial

This noble cause to protect wildlife and the environment is, however, in danger of losing the moral test as Parks rangers and police stand accused of torturing villagers in order to extract information.

A report in our sister paper Southern Eye yesterday chronicles the tribulations of a villager, Lot Zondo, who was badly tortured and subjected to degrading treatment by rangers from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Zondo says he was beaten, made to roll on the ground and, more shockingly, was forced to kneel over a hot brazier until his “testicles started boiling”.

He was eventually told that he had no case to answer and was told to go home. Because of the ordeal, he says he has developed a weak bladder and has to visit the toilet frequently.

He is not the only victim of these barbaric acts. Other villagers have been beaten, detained and tortured by the rangers and are suffering in silence, fearing retribution and further harassment.

The treatment of Zondo is not only disgusting, but points to a system that still considers torture as an acceptable means of law enforcement.

This is despite the fact that the law is very clear in our Constitution that: “No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other such treatment.”

But impunity reigns among law enforcement agencies that appear to have a free rein in administering torture. This has bastardised the criminal justice system in the country as perpetrators of torture have gone unpunished and some have even been promoted to senior positions in the police despite their evil deeds.

Last year, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark ruling which attacked the State’s use of torture in extracting evidence from Jestina Mukoko, who had been abducted and illegally detained by State security agents in 2008. She faced treason charges.

“The violation of Section 13 (1) of the Constitution lies in the use of, or reliance by the prosecutor on the information or evidence obtained by torture, inhuman and degrading treatment for the purposes of making the prosecutorial decisions,” the court ruled.

State players responsible for torturing Mukoko are mentioned in court papers and to this day, they have gone unpunished.

The same is most likely going to happen to the Parks rangers who tortured Zondo and other villagers in Tsholotsho. The torturers are still on the prowl and will do it again because the system tolerates it.

While we support the government’s fight against poaching and the need to bring culprits to book, we condemn, in the strongest terms, the torturing of villagers in this fight. Government may win the war against poachers in Matabeleland North, but its moral standing is at great risk if human rights violations continue.

Let’s support government’s fight against poachers, but condemn the use of torture!

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