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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Index of articles on enforced disappearances in Zimbabwe
  • Truth, justice, reconciliation and national healing - Index of articles

  • Peace and justice and the rule of law – Peace Watch 24/2009
    January 24, 2009

    Peace Watch has been chronicling the story of the enforced disappearances and subsequent developments for several weeks now. We have done this not only because the victims include three workers for peace in Zimbabwe, but also because it is axiomatic that without justice and due observance of the rule of law there can be no true and lasting peace in our country.

    Jestina Mukoko – taken to hospital in leg irons

    Last week the Chief Justice, after he had seen a doctor’s affidavit stressing the inadequacy of the prison hospital and the necessity for getting Jestina medical attention in a hospital with proper facilities, directed that she should receive “appropriate medical attention as a matter of urgency”. Over a week later Jestina was taken in leg irons and under armed escort to the Avenues Clinic. There she was examined by doctors and, still in leg irons, was sent for X-rays and an ultra-sound scan to assess her injuries. [Jestina has testified that she had been subjected to torture]. She was put on a drip and admitted for treatment. But the escorting prison warders refused to allow her to remain and against her will, still on the drip, took her back to Chikurubi. The doctors refused to sign her discharge papers as she was removed against their professional medical advice. In Chikurubi Jestina is being attended to by a doctor brought in by the prison service. She was at least moved to a makeshift side-ward [a matron’s office] in the males-only prison hospital. Initially, she was kept in leg-irons and even expected to sleep with them in place.

    News of the other Zimbabwe Peace Project staff

    Broderick Takawira: Broderick is still in solitary confinement at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. At his last appearance in the magistrates’ court, the magistrate granted his lawyers’ application for the constitutional aspects of his case to be referred to the Supreme Court. This referral parallels the referral granted a few days earlier in Jestina’s case [see below], and the Supreme Court is likely to hear the two cases together.

    Pascal Gonzo: Although both a High Court Judge and a magistrate ordered Pascal’s release before the end of last year, the State blocked his release and he continued in solitary confinement in Chikurubi Maximum Security prison. Another application for his release will be heard by a High Court judge early next week.

    One abductee released

    On 23 January Tawanda Bvumo was released from Chikurubi two days after a Judge ordered his release, saying that if the State wish to press charges against him they should do so by way of summons. He had been in State custody for 84 days, since the end of October.

    No date yet for Supreme Court hearing for Jestina Mukoko

    Jestina Mukoko’s case has been referred to the Supreme Court by the magistrate’s court at her lawyers’ request, as they are arguing that the State cannot prosecute her until the numerous infringements of her constitutional rights have been properly redressed – unlawful deprivation of liberty, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment while detained, denial of pre-trial rights [no reason given for arrest, no access to lawyers or relatives], denial of protection of the law [the report of her abduction not investigated by police, and her abductors not prosecuted]. As this is a constitutional case, it will be heard by five Supreme Court judges. The hearing will be open to the public, but the date has still not been fixed although the Chief Justice has already ruled the case is urgent.

    Other forthcoming court hearings

    Monday 26 January: Chris Dhlamini, Gandi Mudzingwa, Mapfumo Garutsa, Andrison Manyere, Regis Mujeyi, Zacharia Nkomo and Chinoto Zulu [the "Dhlamini group"], who have been remanded in custody on charges of insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism [bombing of police station and railway line], will appear at the magistrates court for further remand. [They were remanded on the 9th, and because an accused person cannot be remanded for more than 14 days at a time, their remand hearing should have occurred on Friday 23rd January; but they were not brought to court by the prison authorities, so the proceedings were postponed.] The Attorney-General’s office is also due to report back to the court on its investigation into the group’s complaints of torture while in State custody [this report back is already overdue]. There is also an application pending in the High Court to set aside the charges and release them, but no date has yet been set for this.

    Wednesday 28 January: Concillia Chinanzvavana, Emmanuel Chinanzvavana, Fidelis Chiramba, Pieta Kaseke, Violet Mupfuranhehwe and Collen Mutemagau [their little boy Nigel was eventually released] will appear in the magistrates court for further remand proceedings.

    Friday 30 January: Jestina Mukoko will appear at the magistrates court for continuation of her postponed remand proceedings. Further postponement is likely, depending on developments in the Supreme Court on her complaint of violations of her constitutional rights [see above].

    Background to these events

    It was only a few months ago that the horrendous phenomenon of enforced disappearance became widespread, starting with the abduction and disappearance of 14 MDC-T office-bearers and members in Mashonaland West at the beginning of November and continuing until well into December with the abduction of Zimbabwe Peace Project [ZPP] director Jestina Mukoko and Broderick Takawira and Pascal Gonzo [ZPP staff members] and several others [see Peace Watch of 28th December for lists of names and Peace Watch of 9th December for commentary on enforced disappearance]. Because of the number of cases [32] and the high profile of the ZPP staff these disappearances have raised huge concern in Zimbabwe and world wide. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights [ZLHR] have been working almost day and night to find out what happened [see Peace Watch of 16th January] and taking action to protect their safely and legal rights.

    In other countries, notably Latin American countries, where enforced disappearances have taken place they have been a tool of a repressive government fighting against activists promoting more freedom of political choice and working against state violence. In Zimbabwe the recent spate of disappearances have taken place at a time when critical negotiations between political parties are taking place. On 19th December Mr Tsvangirai stated that MDC-T would not continue with the negotiations for an inclusive government unless all the “disappeared” civil society and MDC-T cadres were released or charged in a court of law by January 1st 2009.

    On 23rd December some of the 32 persons listed by ZLHR as having disappeared were located by lawyers looking for them. On the 24th December, 9 of them were produced in the magistrates court, and at 9 p.m. a High Court judge granted an order for (1) the release of Jestina Mukoko, Broderick Takawira and the Dhlamini group to the Avenues Clinic for medical examination and treatment under police guard, and (2) the outright release of the other 23 on the ZLHR list [none of which has been done].

    Key Developments Since 24 December

    Note: for full day by day details of events please see ZLHR reports available from

    On Christmas Day: The High Court judge’s order to take Jestina Mukoko and others alleging torture to the Avenues Clinic for medical treatment was defied and all were removed to Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. Also flouted was the judge's order for the release of the other 23 persons listed as disappeared.

    On 29 December: A further 9 of the disappeared were produced and brought to the magistrates court to be placed on remand [the Dhlamini group plus Pascal Gonzo and Tawanda Bvumo].

    [This still left 14 on the ZLHR list unaccounted for – but believed to be in State custody - later developments regarding these 14 were covered in Peace Watch of 16 January].

    On 30 December: Lawyers again asked for the abductees who had made affidavits of torture to be transferred to the Avenues Clinic. In spite of the public prosecutor’s resistance, the magistrate eventually ordered medical examination by doctors of their own choice, but that these were to be done in prison. The abductees were examined by doctors of their own choice at Chikurubi Prison Hospital who noted evidence of torture.

    On 31 December: Lawyers lodged an urgent High Court application on behalf of Jestina Mukoko for an order compelling the police to disclose the identities of those responsible for her abduction and detention. Minister of State Security Didymus Mutasa filed an affidavit confirming State security involvement in her seizure and detention, but claimed that divulging the information sought would prejudice national security.

    On 2 January: A High Court judge upheld the Minister’s objection to disclosure of information about responsibility for Jestina Mukoko’s abduction and detention, but ordered that she be taken to Avenues Clinic for examination.

    On 15 January: It was discovered that the State is holding three of the original abductees in “police protective custody” as State witnesses.

    On 20 January: Lawyers succeeded in getting Jestina’s case referred to the Supreme Court for an order to grant redress for numerous breaches of her constitutional rights by the State.

    The cases are still continuing: Basically, the State has continued to press for all 18 abductees so far brought to court to be placed on remand on various criminal charges related to insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism [see Peace Watch of 16 January]. The defence lawyers have strenuously resisted these applications, arguing that the grave infringements of the abductees’ constitutional rights [abduction, secret detention, torture, refusal to investigate and prosecute the abductors, etc.] mean they are not properly brought before the court [the State has “dirty hands”] and they should be released. In addition they have argued that the State’s allegations do not establish a reasonable suspicion of commission of the offences charged.

    For dates of forthcoming hearings see above.

    Issues of Great Concern to the Public

    • Constant delays have thwarted the delivery of justice – Judges and magistrates not making themselves available or turning up hours late, police or prison officials not producing detainees in court, court orders being ignored,and delays in typing up of court records needed for cases to be taken to a higher court, have resulted in months of delays since the “disappearances”.
    • The State’s resistance to divulging of information about abductees' detention has hampered proper investigation, could be a cover up for illegalities and torture on the part of State agents, and will foster an ongoing culture of impunity.
    • The frustration of lawyers' attempts to get abductees proper medical treatment is a gross denial of prisoners rights and a violation of our Constitution and international conventions and could be a cover up when there are allegations of torture.

    Zimbabwe’s Legal Resources Foundation Trustees have issued a statement on the general departure from the rule of law and the State's disregard of court orders [available from]

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