By Staff Reporters
The United Nations has expressed deep concern at reports of people being raped and tortured in the ongoing crackdown against dissent in Zimbabwe and demanded President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to act to end the impunity.
The UN urged Mnangagwa to bring perpetrators to book.
The UN local office said it was concerned with the state of affairs in the country, especially allegations of violence that have left a trail of “destruction, lootings, mass arrests and detentions as well as reported physical violence, rape cases and sexual violence”.
“The investigations should result in holding the perpetrators to account and bringing justice to those affected, assisting families who lost loved ones, ensuring due process of law to those in custody and providing survivors with necessary health, psycho-social and legal services,” the UN said in a statement yesterday.
“Acts of violence, rape, and other forms of violence are heinous crimes and a serious threat to every individuals’ rights to life and dignity. The safety, security and dignity of every person are universal human rights enshrined in the country’s Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
At least 12 people were killed after the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and other social movements called for a three-day stayaway recently to protest against hikes in prices of fuel by over 150%. Police and the military have reportedly been beating up suspected protesters and looters, while several women alleged they were raped.
The UN said upholding the rule of law and human rights as well as adhering to humanitarian principles in public service provision and maintaining peace were necessary conditions to resolve Zimbabwe’s current socio-economic challenges.
But Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba said allegations of rape by soldiers were “propaganda” aimed at instilling revolts among people, which was not backed by evidence.
“When it comes to the narrative that we have seen lately, alleging that members of the defence forces, members of the police, were involved in incidences of violation of the woman, firstly it goes against cultural norm,” Charamba reportedly said.
“Secondly, it goes against the spirit of the second republic and, thirdly, it goes against the law and there is no way that the second republic and its determination to uphold law and order can ever condone such acts. However, what you need to remember is that globally, rape is what we term in propaganda an emotional trigger. When you want to damp a society, when you want to damp an institution, just allege rape and then you delegitimise it.”
Charamba, who is the deputy Chief Secretary to the President (communications), said the “propaganda” of rape being peddled failed to hold water as no evidence could be tabled.
“We continue to ask why, after government has asked any rape victim to come forward and identify themselves for purposes of litigation we have, to date, only received just one call from an area called Chitungwiza and we haven’t heard any other,” he said.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi was this week grilled in Parliament over the arrests of children during the recent protests against fuel price hikes.
Mutasa South MP Regai Tsunga on Wednesday asked Ziyambi to explain to the National Assembly why the rights of children were not being protected.
“We have seen disturbing pictures and read stories about children sharing same prison cells with adults,” Tsunga said.
Ziyambi chose to dodge the issue of children arrested during the violent protests as he made a generalised response.
“I would like to refer Tsunga to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, which clearly states what has to be done with children who are in conflict with the law,” Ziyambi said.
“However, as government we came up with the pre-trial diversion programme so that those children in conflict with the law are dealt with separately from the adult, that is government policy.”
But Tsunga said he needed further clarity, adding that the incarcerated children were seen in leg irons and kept in cells with adults.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, then quashed further questions to Ziyambi, saying Tsunga should put his questions in writing and give specific incidences of the cases of those affected children.
Mutare Central MP Innocent Gonese (MDC Alliance) said it was a well-known issue, which did not need further specifics.
“The written question will point out the places where this has taken place so that a direct investigation is done by the minister concerned,” Mudenda said.
The Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children also said it was deeply concerned with reports and evidence on the arrests and detention of children accused of public violence.
“Evidence gathered from our member organisations working on the ground shows that children have been arrested and detained without following international and local standards that uphold children’s rights as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Constitution of Zimbabwe section 81 and the Children’s Act,” the organisation said in a statement.