TELOSscope: The Telos Press Blog

New Year’s Report from Zimbabwe

This report appeared in Help Zimbabwe Magazine and is reposted here with permission, continuing our discussion of repression in Zimbabwe.

ZIMBABWE—HARARE—Lawyers have been told that Superintendent Makedenge and his Harare central police station law and order department henchmen assaulted a two-year-old baby using cruel torture techniques that were meant to induce a confession from the mother.

A two-year-old baby is among political detainees held in the filthy Chikurubi female remand prison.

Lawyers were allowed access to the female activists on Monday, ZimDaily can reveal, but were denied client-lawyer privileges. The mother told a team of lawyers that went to Chikurubi that the two-year-old baby was assaulted by the goon squad and needed urgent medical attention, which has been denied, even in prison.

No prison doctor has been availed to the opposition and rights activists that were sent back to Chikurubi after appearing in court yesterday. They have further angered the regime by attempting to charge President Mugabe with contempt of court.

The regime has refused to comply with a high court order to take the detainees to hospital to get treatment for torture injuries. The State says they face serious charges of plotting to overthrow President Mugabe’s constitutionally established government. The detainees are a flight risk, argues the State, which asserts they face very serious charges and could abscond.

“The state is approaching this court with dirty hands,” lawyer Charles Kwaramba argued in the high court yesterday. “The state did not comply with the order of (High Court) justice Yunus Omerjee. On that basis alone, the state should be held in contempt of the high court,” he said.

The defendants, Jestina Mukoko of the Zimbabwe Peace Project and eight co-accused, are facing trumped-up charges of recruiting MDC guerillas to undergo military training in neighboring Botswana with an objective of causing unrest and overthrowing the government.

The political detainees arrived at court in leg irons and handcuffs yesterday.

Jestina Mukoko’s health is sharply deteriorating. She looked gaunt and tired as she arrived at court, with her red tracksuit disheveled and her hair unkempt. She has not been allowed to take her medication, lawyers said. She is said to be suffering from a chronic condition.

“Ya, ine museredzero [It’s payback time for selling out],” one of the detectives said in remarks apparently aimed at four journalists that had summoned the guts to cover the high profile court case at the high court.

Journalists, clearly terrified of abductions, strategically stayed away from court, which was teeming with intelligence operatives.

Yesterday, nine other activists were brought to court from police cells, and not from Chikurubi. The stratification of the prisoners has not been explained. Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe will hear the case again on Wednesday. The defense team is arguing that there is no need for the case to go to trial, and the magistrate is expected to decide on an application to throw out the case saying there was no prima facie case that Mukoko and her co-accused plotted to overthrow Mugabe.

There was not even a shred of credible evidence to support the State’s incredulous claims, the defense team argued. The State has appealed against the high court ruling handed down last week stating that the political detainees be taken to hospital, rejecting claims by the defense that the accused were tortured during their prolonged incommunicado detention.

“We are contesting the accused being formally remanded,” Kwaramba said. “The actual criminals are their abductors.”

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