BY MOSES MATENGA/DESMOND CHINGARANDE/TATENDA CHITAGU
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s advisers under the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) have condemned the abduction of opposition MDC Alliance officials, saying the actions of his regime were taking the country backwards.
The Elders, an international non-governmental organisation comprising eminent public figures noted as elder statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocates, also voiced their concern over the abduction and sexual assault on the activists, who include Harare West legislator Joanah Mamombe, youth leaders Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri.
The three MDC Alliance leaders, who were reportedly arrested and the abducted last week following an unsanctioned demonstration in Harare and dumped in Bindura, narrated their horrific encounter, which included alleged sexual assault and being forced to eat human excreta at the hands of suspected State security agents.
PAC appointees and businessmen, Busisa Moyo and Shingi Munyeza implored Mnangagwa to stop the abductions.
“We must end these bizarre abductions and inconclusive investigations to these cases. The State is responsible for the welfare of its citizens. Even the Catholic bishops are gravely concerned. Let us fix this or else we are not going anywhere,” Moyo tweeted.
Cleric and businessman Munyeza said the behaviour was deplorable.
“What has not been well with me is the happenings of the last week when three ladies were taken up, abducted and were abused physically and they were abused sexually, they were left for dead. I can’t stomach that. Why would we have such? Why do we continue to have such? We have enough a situation with COVID-19, bad economic environment, bad leadership and a deteriorating social environment and then we put on top of that this behaviour,” he said.
“In some way, I was not shocked because we have evil men presiding over an evil system and whose main purpose is to maim, to brutalise, to corrupt for their own selfish gains and to hold on to resources and to power so that they only benefit with their kith and kin. This is not the Zimbabwe we want, this is not Zimbabwe God wants. We need to have a better Zimbabwe, but the only problem is educated men and women out there remaining in silence and not coming out in their own voices against such an abominable act, such an abusive and brutal act.
“When wicked men rule, the people groan. We have evil men who man this system of the occult that is evil, that is brutal, that is corrupt,” Munyeza added, before apologising to the three opposition activists.
The Elders, comprising former Ireland President Mary Robinson, former United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon and the late former South African leader Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, among others, said: “We are alarmed at reports of more abductions, torture and sexual abuse of female activists in Zimbabwe, especially when COVID-19 threatens the country’s health system, economy and social fabric, all stakeholders must act in good faith to protect lives, freedoms and the rule of law.”
However, Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba, on his Twitter handle, challenged Munyeza to resign from PAC and the Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers) board if he “can’t sup with the devil”.
“Does the world know that Shingi is a dutiful member of the Zimpapers board, apart from serving on PAC? How do good men associate with, and serve evil? Let him resign on both so we take him seriously. Outside that action, he is loud fake,” Charamba posted on his Twitter account, @Jamwanda2.
The Zimbabwe heads of Christian denominations also condemned the abduction and torture of citizens, challenging government to focus on ending the hardships faced by the ordinary people as a result of the lockdown which interrupted economic activities of the majority.
“It is deeply disturbing that the country has seen so many cases of abductions and torture in the last few months, most of which have not been conclusively investigated,” the heads of churches said in a joint statement signed off by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe Africa.
The churches said it was more saddening that the abductions and human rights abuses were happening at a time Zimbabwe was chairing the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs’ Co-operation and the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security.
Information permanent secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said a team of police officers in Bindura were on the ground over the weekend investigating the matter.
The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) called on government to uphold the Constitution.
“Gender-based violence regardless of context, or its form does not have room in a modern society. We are concerned that the fact that the violence was allegedly directed at women leaders, it is likely to discourage women’s participation in politics and decision-making, which the commission has been actively promoting,” a statement from ZGC read in part.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, a coalition of rights defenders, in a statement said the ordeal of the three female politicians constituted “the most egregious and extensive sufferings a human being can experience”.
A lawyer representing the trio, Jeremiah Bhamu, said doctors who examined his clients said they remained incapacitated after severe torture at the hands of suspected State agents.
“The doctors said they are not yet in a sound health state and the first step before anything can happen is to wait for them to recover,” Bhamu said.